Sports News

Memo to outraged local sports fans: We still have it pretty good here

It's understandable why some fans might have a sense of championship entitlement, but please relax and try to enjoy the journey.

Stan Grossfeld
Maybe the Red Sox don't look ready to add another trophy this year — who knows? — but we can still enjoy them and the rest of our teams.

Let me tell you, the email inbox has been a treat lately.

There are some fans among us who appreciate sports for the often-rewarding diversion that they are, who maintain patience and perspective on the current status of the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins, who manage to capture and savor good memories from seasons that don’t end in championships.

I appreciate hearing from those fans. But, sheesh, is it ever getting harder to hear them over the cacophony of histrionic, reactionary, and context-free yowling because these teams that combined to bring 12 championships to the region since 2001 are in various states of roster repair right now.

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The Bruins, currently in fourth place in the East Division, remain a viable Stanley Cup contender despite dealing with a few recent hiccups and mass attrition on defense. We’ll exclude them from the brunt of the conversation since the gripes about them are more of a low hum from people still perplexed that Tuukka Rask’s teammates happily welcomed him back this season.

Here’s a sample of some recent correspondence regarding the Celtics, Patriots, and Red Sox (in that order) that is representative of the general mood:

“If I were the owners, I would fire Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens; keep Tatum, Brown, Smart, both Williamses, Pritchard and Nesmith. …Granted, I have no suggestion on who they should hire for coach and GM but whoever they find surely should be able to do a better job than what is happening with this regime.”

“It’s amazing that such mediocrity and underwhelming potential is costing north of $200 million. They blamed Dumbrowski for overspending, but at least he assembled a powerful cast of characters. Our resident-know-it-all has quietly assembled a $200 million jalopy of a team that will have a hard time lapping anyone.

“Excuses, excuses. If [Bill Belichick] is a football ‘genius’ (he isn’t) he would have been able to think his way to victories. He hasn’t.”

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Did you spot all the contradictions? Fire the guy who drafted the seven players you want to keep. Blame the new boss for having a $200 million jalopy of a team on which the worst contracts are the reason the previous boss is no longer here. Argue that a coach who has 20 years of excellence on his record, including bookend Super Bowl wins against the Rams that included masterful defensive game plans, is not a football genius.

That’s the part that gets exasperating — fans allowing the frustrations of a given moment to blind them to what they already saw and know.

You know the Celtics, with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown signed to new contracts and already ascended to All-Star status, have a bright immediate future, even if Banner 18 isn’t coming this season. You know Chaim Bloom has made several small but savvy decisions as he systematically builds up the neglected talent infrastructure of the 40-man Red Sox roster and beyond. You know how exceptional Belichick is at his job despite an unimpressive won-lost record separate from Tom Brady, a record that requires context on the particular circumstances in his losing seasons.

At least I hope you know these things. Because if you’re actually paying attention — rather than taking your talking points from negativity-feasting sports radio trolls who contrive controversy in 20-minute increments between divorce lawyer commercials — you shouldn’t require this reminder that we still have it pretty good around here.

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I understand why a younger demographic might feel a sense of entitlement. If you’re 30 years old right now, and you caught the fever as a Boston sports fan at age 9, your world view began the year the Patriots drafted Tom Brady. You’ve known nothing but the quest for championships, and that quest was so often fulfilled. What’s going on now is unfamiliar. It’s not nearly as much fun. Welcome to the real world, kid.

There are fewer excuses for older generations to be so hyperbolically negative. Those of us who remember first meeting Belichick as Bill Parcells’s defensive mastermind with the Giants, or first saw Ainge when the Brigham Young star weaved through what seemed to be the entire Notre Dame roster for an NCAA Tournament buzzer beater, ought to have some appreciation for their long journeys and their successes along the way.

If everything is about championships, why did any of us pay any attention to the Patriots for their first 40-plus years of existence, or care about the Red Sox through one frustrating decade after another until 2004 came around?

The Bruins are the only current contenders right now, and that’s OK so long as the other teams are doing what’s necessary to get back in that championship picture. I believe they are, albeit all at a different stage or in a different way.

In the meantime, there is plenty of entertainment to be found — in watching how Belichick reshapes and possibly reloads this roster with tens of millions in cap space; in waiting to see whether Ainge uses the traded-player exception now and whether talented, raw young players like Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford can soon develop into genuine contributors like Robert Williams has; in discovering which among the flock of currently unfamiliar players Bloom brought in will find success and popularity.

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As this past year reminded us relentlessly, true joy is in the shared journey with people you care about, not the final score. Griping about the teams is a traditional part of that journey. But it should not be the default setting. There’s a lot of good stuff to be found in the spaces between winning and whining.

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