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Dashed Hopes: The Sorry State Of New England Sports In The 2000s

The Celtics, in the 2010 NBA Finals, had a great chance to deliver New England another title. (AP)

The Celtics, in the 2010 NBA Finals, had a great chance to deliver New England another title. (AP)

BOSTON — Aha! That got your attention!

And now that I have it, it should be fairly obvious that the above is one of the dumbest — albeit intentional — headlines you’ll ever read, because over the last decade Boston area professional and Division 1 college teams won 16 titles.

On the pro side, the Patriots harvested the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX. The team with an ignominious history and the worst stadium in all of sports (Schaefer, no Sullivan, no Foxboro stadium) had somehow gone from a laughing stock to a powerhouse.

The Red Sox stunned everyone in 2004 by actually winning A World Series In Our Lifetime, and again in 2007, which some misanthropic Swamp Yankees (not to be confused with New York Yankees or even with Yankees fans) mistook for a sure sign of the apocalypse. The more positive Soxheads who witnessed the 2007 triumph saw the gifts for what they were and gave thanks they weren’t pro baseball fans from Milwaukee, Pittsburgh or Washington. Or fans of the Cubs.

The mind reels when you consider that New England teams had chances at an additional six championships in the last decade.

The Celtics made their longtime fans forget over two decades of futility by taking the 2008 NBA championship, which was sweeter for the fact that the win was at the expense of their archrivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.

New England college sports teams piled on with 10 Division 1 NCAA titles. Boston College won men’s hockey titles in 2001, 2008 and 2010, missing the three-peat (© Pat Riley) only because crosstown rival Boston University prevailed in 2009. The University of Connecticut women’s hoopsters won an amazing five championships from 2001 to 2010, and the men, perhaps out of shame, got one in 2004.

But, oh, what could have been. The mind reels when you consider that New England teams had chances at an additional six championships in the last decade.

The highly favored Patriots blew Super Bowl XLII to a gritty team from New York that wasn’t in awe of Brady and The Brain (sounds familiar, yes?) and didn’t know or care that it wasn’t supposed to win. Before the Giants’ game-winning 4th quarter drive, network cameras caught Patriots linebacker Junior Seau celebrating. Seau was planning to retire (for the second time; he finally did so in 2010) and thought he had finally won that elusive Super Bowl ring.

In the 2010 NBA Finals, the Celtics watched exhaustedly as the Lakers overcame a 13-point third quarter deficit in Game 7 and visions of championship banner No. 18 dissipated in the California night. This was not supposed to happen. Not to the Celtics, who going into seventh games were an astonishing 20-5.

The New England Revolution made it to the MLS Finals in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007 and lost all four times, despite owning leads in the last two tries. They’d be “The Buffalo Bills of the MLS”, except that the Bills went to, and lost, four title games in a row from 1991-1994. Whew, ignominy averted.

If the Pats, Celtics and Revs had capitalized on all of their championship opportunities, the tally for the last decade would stand at a staggering 22 titles. The average championship-per-year average would have shot from 1.6 to 2.2.

Which is not to say the local sports fans here would ever stop complaining about their teams, even if every one of them won every game and every playoff series every year. Or that there won’t be more championships down the line. But it is interesting to ponder what we’ll think about all this when we’ve hit the dry spell we all know is coming. We’ll close our eyes and see Ray Allen driving to the rim and making Sasha Vujacic look silly, Adam Vinatieri calmly kicking it through the uprights and celebrating with teammates, and Dave Roberts brushing second base with his left hand.

Maybe we’ll even see Zdeno Chara and David Krejci and Marc Savard lifting the Stanley Cup, but that would have to be in the future. Because the Bruins, well, you know, they’re the Bruins.

Gary Waleik is the senior producer of Only A Game.

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