What does a Boston sports fan look ahead to?
The Celtics are toast. Let’s acknowledge that straight off. It is not a question of whether they will go down, but whether or not they will go down fighting. These Celtics have always gone down fighting. When fans cite Rajon Rondo’s outsized statistics in nationally televised games — as of last April, the most recent time for which I could painfully easily find stats, 14 of his 18 career triple-doubles had come in the postseason — I take comfort in the fact all postseason games are nationally televised. That will not be enough this year.
The Bruins, we’ll see. Hockey is bred for one-season phenomena (not surprisingly, the opposite of how it should be bred), and they had their moment two years ago.
The Red Sox have their defining season, for this iteration. What they have going for them: Cherington is de facto a good general manager, they are totally unburdened from expectations, and they still have some great players… even if “some” is just two. What they have going against them: They’re not great, which has a way of wearing on people.
The next real big game for Boston sports fans is next year’s Patriots opener. We have floated back to Earth. The whiplash will catch some people, but whatever. We now have eight months to figure out if the Patriots can do it again — eight months to focus on the Patriots, and the amazing favor they’ve done us. Eight months to follow nonsense stories about Welker. (He will re-sign.) Eight months to wonder if Brady will still have it. (He will.) Eight months to wonder whether Rob Gronkowski is permanently off-and-on injured, and whether the how the dice-roll defense will acquit itself.
Here’s the problem: In the NFL, that’s a sad road, because eventually, you’re going to lose. If you’re a fan of all but about eight teams — that is, 75 percent of the league — it’s a daily reality. In college, it’s different. In college, Alabama can stay Alabama from year to year, mastering the churn. In the NFL, the Patriots can only do so much, and they have done so much that expecting them to do it again is both wholly selfish and altogether correct. Because fuck’em, right?
Right. But here we are and there ain’t no frontier. We’re getting to the mountains. When it stops rolling, who will still give a crap?
A better question, of course: Should you?
Should you care about what a bunch of people you’ve never met do inside a TV set? Should you pay criminally insane prices for licensed goods with your favorite team’s logo on it? Should you spend hours on the Internet, dousing the Web with your thoughts and feelings? Should you skip that Sunday appointment?
The answer to these questions is no, you shouldn’t, and it is self-evidently true that it is. But it’s the wrong question. The real question is: Knowing that it’s wrong, why do we do it anyway? What is it that makes sports irresistible? I don’t know the answer, but I haven’t given up looking for it, nor have I quit trying to figure out why I care. And if you’re tuning in tonight, or whenever, you probably feel the same way, though maybe not to the same degree. But I know this: In eight months, you’ll be glued to your TV set for the first game that mattered for awhile. You won’t stop to think why. You’ll just know that it does. When it’s game time, it’s all about the game.
There might not be too much to look forward to until September, but we’ll always have that, and in that, we’ll have a Rondo pass, a blown Rivera save that’ll make it all worth it. They’ll never get a trophy for it, but hey, you never got one at all.