Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The New Sports Decade Begins....

Baseball season is just around the corner, and how the Red Sox fare this year could either quell or strengthen the fears of New England sports fans...

Since the Patriots lost to the Ravens in the first round of the '09 playoffs, there's been a lot of talk about the collapse of a dynasty. Not just the dynasty of the Pats but the city of Boston as a whole, whose sports fans have been spoiled for the first ten years of the new millennium. Beantown teams brought in 5 championships last decade, enough to make most cities cringe with jealousy. However, writers such as ESPN's Howard Bryant have stated that a market correction seems inevitable. All good things must come to an end.

Back in January this couldn't have seemed more true. The Patriots had looked shaky all season. They couldn't win on the road, couldn't beat elite teams, and lost in the first round of the playoffs for the first time under Brady-Belichick. Not only did they lose but they lost by a lot, and at home. The Patriots didn't look like the same inspired team that had brought 3 Lombardi trophies to New England.

This downward spiral was only accentuated by the fact that, in October, the Red Sox fell apart and lost in the first round of the playoffs as well. Like the Patriots, the Red Sox were beat in convincing fashion by the Angels - getting swept in three games. The Sox also appeared to look different than they had when they won the World Series, and I wrote about it here. They weren't the lovable idiots anymore. They lacked the charisma, personality and luster that had helped bring trophies to Boston.

Even though NBA and NHL playoffs haven't begun yet, it's easy to envelop those two Boston teams in this pessimism. The Celtics have been very inconsistent and get trampled by younger, faster teams. The Bruins are what they are. Both of these Garden-dwellers may have shown flashes of greatness recently (with the Celtics' win over the Nuggets and the Bruins' over Atlanta) but, they've done that all year. We've constantly been shown glimmers of hope only to have them blocked out. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to imagine the Celtics and Bruins both getting knocked out in the first round as well.

Despite the reasons for cynicism, I do have hope for the next decade. However, if these fears are to be quelled it's going to have to start with the Red Sox. The new sports decade, that some have Boston destined to fail in, begins April 4th when the Sox take on the Yankees at Fenway. This will be the first major sports season that would begin and end in the '10s. If the Sox do well this year it could serve to shut people like me up about the doom and gloom awaiting Boston fans, and they have a good chance to do that. This year the Red Sox have a solid identity as they've shoared up on defense with signings of Beltre, Cameron, and Lackey. Sure, they don't have anyone in the line up that, as Bill Simmons would say, you'd want to hold in your pee to see hit, but they also don't have any bad players. The Sox are solid at all positions and have laid a solid groundwork to build off of for the new decade. I'm not predicting that the Sox win the World Series this year, but I am predicting that they improve greatly upon last year's lackluster performance. Losing in the first round of the playoffs may not be as bad a fate as some sports towns face, but it's a step backwards from the winning ways Boston teams have established this decade. If someone's going to prove that all is not lost in Boston for the 2010s, that responsibility lays on the shoulders of the Red Sox.

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