On Wednesday, NESN aired the Sports Museum’s 19th annual “Tradition,” a one-hour special that honored four iconic championship teams from Boston in the 21st century: The 2001 Patriots, 2004 Red Sox, 2008 Celtics and the 2011 Bruins.
Each segment featured stories and interviews with hosts Jackie MacMullan and Tom Caron, who spoke to members of each team about their respective runs to the title. Here are some of the stories they shared.
The 2001 Patriots
The Patriots’ season was supposed to be over when Drew Bledsoe suffered a terrifying injury in Week 2, prompting little-known quarterback Tom Brady to join the starting lineup. But the Patriots were 5-5 with Brady at the helm when Bledsoe was ready to return, and Belichick opted to let the younger QB finish the season.
Brady, of course, didn’t disappoint — leading the Patriots through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl, where Adam Vinatieri’s field goal gave New England a 20-17 victory over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams.
But his teammates initially weren’t sure what to make of the 199th overall pick.
“It was the fourth game, and Drew went down,” offensive guard Joe Andruzzi said. “He decided to run with the ball, which he never did before. But he did get injured, and in came this big scrawny kid that you just wanted to smack the smile off his face.”
Still, Andruzzi said Brady had been preparing for that moment all year.
“He had that drive and determination where he worked all offseason,” Andruzzi said. “He wanted to be that backup, and he was that backup when the chance came. He stepped right in, and it only takes one chance. He got his chance, and he ran with it.”
Linebacker Roman Phifer said he joined the Patriots the offseason prior at the urging of then-New England linebacker Willie McGinest, who worked out at the same Gold’s Gym as Phifer. McGinest’s pitch, which Phifer admitted wasn’t particularly convincing, was that the Patriots had “some guys.” Phifer had never experienced the playoffs, or even a winning season, and he said he still hears McGinest to this day telling him, “I told you to come to New England, I told you we were going to do something.”
Nearly 20 years later, Phifer said his clearest memory is his father holding Phifer’s son after the Super Bowl. Phifer remembered his father handing the child over the railing with tears in his eyes.
“My dad, he never cried,” Phifer said. “The only time I ever saw him cry was at my grandmother’s funeral, his mother. I knew that meant a lot to him to show that emotion.”
The 2004 Red Sox
Much has been made of the infamous Gatorade cup full of Jack Daniels that was passed around the Red Sox’ clubhouse during their 2004 run.
So, as Tom Caron asked on the “Tradition” broadcast, was there actually Jack Daniels?
Jason Varitek pleaded the fifth.
“I was already in the bullpen,” he deadpanned. “I can’t answer that.”
“Some of us only work part-time,” closer Keith Foulke said, before adding, “It was Crown Royal, but yeah. It was there.”
Former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar has since clarified that the amount of alcohol consumed was minuscule and that clearly nobody was drunk.
Regardless, Red Sox fans were ecstatic as the 85-year playoff drought came to an end in the most dramatic fashion possible. Down 3-0 in the ALCS, and 4-3 in Game 4, the Red Sox rallied to beat the New York Yankees before sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
Some may have been a little too enthusiastic: Foulke remembered one fan following him through the streets of Newton, until Foulke finally pulled over ready to fight. Instead, the fan hugged him and said, “Hey, I just wanted to say thank you.”
“Rolling through the streets, seeing the people 30, 40, 50 deep,” Varitek said. “You’re talking doing this for hours, and everybody — the joy, and you hear stories about loved ones who weren’t there, family members who unfortunately waited their whole lives to see this. It was the most overpowering thing I’ve ever been a part of, and I wish everyone could experience that.”
“Who’s your closer? Oh sorry, we never saw them!”
— NESN (@NESN) December 16, 2020
The 2008 Celtics
Before the 2007-08 season, Kevin Garnett famously did not want to be in Boston — preferring instead the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant. But when the Celtics traded for Ray Allen, Garnett relented, and then-coach Doc Rivers — having golfed with Kevin McHale in Las Vegas and having heard what the Timberwolves’ GM really wanted in a Kevin Garnett trade — knew the Celtics could make it happen.
“He just said, ‘I want the best scoring big man in the NBA that’s young,'” Rivers told Jackie MacMullan. “And I remember looking at Danny and saying, ‘We got Al (Jefferson). There’s nobody that scores better than Al.’ Honestly, that was the moment that I knew we were going to get Kevin Garnett.”
Fresh off the second-worst record in the NBA the year before, the Celtics roared to a 66-16 season in 2007-08 and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. After three hard-fought series’, the Celtics faced the Lakers in the Finals. Paul Pierce lifted them in Game 1. Leon Powe dropped 20 points unexpectedly in Game 2, and the Celtics would go on to close out the series in six games.
Powe, who joined the “Tradition” show, said he enjoyed his Frosted Flakes the morning before Game 2 and felt “good energy” entering the arena.
“Doc always told me, ‘You don’t know when it’s your time. Be prepared,'” Powe said.
Kendrick Perkins spoke up.
“Jackie, don’t let Leon tell you that,” Perkins said. “Leon wanted to get buckets, am I right, Doc?”
“Leon was a bucket getter,” Rivers said. “Leon was just a tough guy, he was going to play defense, but Leon wanted buckets.”
Perkins said the moment that hit him hardest after winning the title was the parade. For Rivers, it was seeing his “Ubuntu” mantra come to fruition
“I have to tell you from a coaching standpoint, there’s no better joy than watching your players hug each other, hug you, embrace each other,” Rivers said. “Then you know all the stuff you’ve been through is worth it. It’s a thousand times worth it. “
Powe said all the work he put in with his teammates was his best memory.
The second best?
“When I really realized it, once you get out of that locker room situation and away from the team, I had everybody calling me to do shows for $50,000,” Powe said as the rest of the panel roared with laughter. “You know I couldn’t turn that down. I know I’m a champ then.”
“We did not pay you $50,000, Leon,” Jackie MacMullan clarified.
The 2011 Bruins
Not unlike the 2001 Patriots, the 2011 Bruins watched a key contributor go down with a scary injury. In Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Vancouver’s Aaron Rome leveled Bruins forward Nathan Horton with a devastating hit. Horton was carried off the ice on a stretcher and diagnosed with a severe concussion — he would not return to the series.
For the Bruins, that was a catalyst. Boston scored four goals in the second period and four more in the third to claim an 8-1 victory.
“Well, first of all, it was tough to watch, tough to see, but I think we really rallied behind that,” Patrice Bergeron said. “I think it was one of those things where we felt like we owed it to Horty to roll up our sleeves and really win it for him.”
The Bruins did exactly that. They won the next three games as well, claiming their sixth Stanley Cup.
“The joy, the happiness, the feeling of accomplishment and all that stuff, to see that in your teammate’s eyes and also feel the same was indescribable,” Bergeron said. “It’s something I’ll never forget…
“It’s funny how I don’t remember what I did last week, but I remember every moment from that day and the days after that.”
The only problem?
“It was the greatest feeling in the world,” Mark Recchi said. “Just the joy, the happiness, and how happy everybody was. The only thing I didn’t like about it was at the end, we ran out of booze on the plane. So that wasn’t any good.”
“There was plenty waiting for you in Boston,” Tom Caron said, chuckling. “So it worked out in the end.”
This story has been updated. An earlier version stated Joe Andruzzi’s comments were made during Tom Brady’s rookie year.
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