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Title Town Again: Boston’s Nightmarish Three-Year Title Drought is Over

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By James Furbush on June 16, 2011

Watching Vancouver residents riot and trash their city on Wednesday night after losing Lord Stanley’s Cup to Boston was a painful reminder of how frustrating being a sports fan could be.

But not in Boston, where the Bruins won their first title since 1972.

It was beginning to look like a decade with the Bruins on the outside looking in at all the other Boston champions. Between 2001 and 2011, Boston teams have won seven championships, with the Red Sox taking the title in 2004 and 2007; the Celtics winning one in 2008; the Patriots winning in 2001, 2003 and 2004; and now, the Bruins in 2011.

Seven championships. In all four major sports. In one decade. Amazing.

It used to be that if you were a Boston sports fan, like a Calvinist, you were doomed to a lifetime of suffering. The Red Sox couldn’t beat the Yankees or win the World Series. The Bruins were competitive but stingy owner Jeremy Jacobs never spent enough to actually win a title — just enough to make the playoffs. The Celtics were the Celtics, except the wheels of Boston’s most successful sports franchise fell off sometime in the early ’90s and never fully recovered until Kevin Garnett showed up in 2008. The Patriots’ shining moment came when they got blown out by the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX.

And then, somehow, when the calendar hit 2001, everything in Boston sports changed. Whatever deal the region has made with the devil has certainly paid off. No other city has ever won all four major championships (World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, NBA Championship) in a single decade.

This also doesn’t take into account championship losses by the Celtics in 2010, the Patriots in 2007 (dang, that almost perfect season), and if we were feeling frisky and wanted to include MLS, the New England Revolution lost in that league’s title game four times in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, essentially making them the Buffalo Bills of the MLS.

Oddly enough, however, because soccer is so weird and the sport doesn’t just have league championships, the Revolution did win both the 2007 US Open Cup and the 2008 North American SuperLiga. So it hasn’t been a total drought for the city’s fifth pro team.

Consider that right now, Boston’s longest current championship drought belongs to the Patriots, which haven’t won a title, since (gasp!) the 2005 Super Bowl. That’s six years. Let’s go Belichick — it feels like you’re slacking.

It’s a fairly amazing run for a city that has become known as Title Town in the last decade. Ultimately, only New York (which has nine pro teams, btw) in the ’80s has rivaled Boston’s current success. New York won six championships in the 1980s, with the Islanders winning four Stanley Cups, the Mets winning the World Series in 1986, and the Giants winning the Super Bowl in 1987.

The Chicago Bulls won six titles in the ’90s for that city, but no other team won a championship.

More than anything, the dynasty era of sports is fairly over. We may never see an NBA team rip off 11 out of 13 championships like Bill Russell’s Celtics did between 1957 and 1969 — certainly Jordan’s Bulls came close making their six titles in the ’90s seem much more impressive in retrospect. We may never see a baseball team dominate so thoroughly the way the Yankees did between 1936-1962 when they took home the World Series 15 times.

No NFL team has ever really dominated in the same manner. Sure, the Steelers in the ’70s took home four titles, the Niners in the ’80s with four, the Cowboys in the ’90s with three or recently the Patriots. But that’s hardly dominating in the same manner as the Yankees, Celtics or early Montreal Canadians and Toronto Maple Leafs teams in the NHL.

The point is, winning sports championships is hard. Sustained excellence is even harder now that every league puts a premium on competitive balance. It’s even harder on the fan who invests so much of themselves in their cities’ teams, which is so evident when you can’t tell the difference between Boston’s winning celebration and Vancouver’s losing frustration.

So appreciate the current batch of titles, good people of Boston. It may never be this good again. Sports fans should appreciate it too because they are seeing something they may never seen again.

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