What we all live for, ultimately, is the actual game, which is to say that there are few words, pictures or sounds that can alter how you think or feel about Boston’s next chance for a championship. Especially on Friday of Super Bowl week. Especially after an eighth trip to the Super Bowl. Especially after Boston’s 15th chance at a title in the four major sports over the last 16 years, an unprecedented run that may never again be duplicated anywhere, ever.
So here’s what I’m here to tell you today:
Enjoy the ride.
And know that, incredibly, it doesn’t feel close to over yet.
Just to be clear, we’re not talking solely about the Patriots here. Tom Brady will be 41 next season, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft are aging every year, both coordinators are leaving. The Patriots have some major transitions coming sooner rather than later. What the Patriots are padding the statistics of arguably the greatest coach and quarterbacks of all-time. Belichick and Brady are every bit what Auerbach and Russell were, likely more given the competitive era in which they exist.
So what will happen to the Patriots in the longer term? Heaven knows. But it doesn’t really matter at the moment. Brady and Belichick are well in front of any potential peers – both in the present and historically speaking – and they may be about to lap the field. No other quarterback in NFL history has ever been to more than five Super Bowls; this Brady’s eighth. Meanwhile, including his time as an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator under Bill Parcells with the Patriots and Giants, Belichick has been to the Super Bowl 11 times in 32 years, an astonishing 34.4 percent of the time. He has won seven of the previous 10.
Yep, that’s right. Belichick’s career winning percentage in the Super Bowl is .700. Brady’s is .714. In a game of that magnitude, that is just nuts.
But beyond this week, the immediate future in Boston remains relatively bright. The Celtics probably won’t win the championship this spring, but they’re getting there. With Kyrie Irving leading a young collection of players that includes the promising Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Celtics should be in at least the Eastern Conference finals again. And unlike last year, they will be far more competitive. If and when the Celtics make it to third round, it would be Boston’s 25th trip to the league semifinals since the turn of the millennium, which is a nice way of saying that we are almost always in the final four of something, much to the chagrin of viewing American public.
So the Celtics won’t beat Golden State yet. Fine. But give Irving another year here, give Tatum and Brown another year to develop, bring back a healthy Gordon Hayward and give Danny Ainge a little more time with another high draft pick and … well, you get the idea. The Celtics are still getting better. They’re good, they’re young, they’re well-positioned.
They should be here for a while.
As for the Bruins and Red Sox, there is no real way of knowing where the ceiling is, especially with the former. What the Bruins have so far this season is positively eye-popping and, for now, at least a temporary validation on general manager Don Sweeney. Are they this good? Probably not. But they, too, are getting better, and they have a young defenseman in Charlie McAvoy that they openly acknowledge is the future of their franchise, which should tell you something. McAvoy isn’t running from that burden. And the Bruins are not shy to place that weight on him. McAvoy is that good, plain and simple, and everybody knows it.
Are the Bruins close a championship? No. At least we don’t think so. But what they are, again, is interesting, and they are building something. If they can win just one round this spring – and that is still a big if – they will extend the hockey season by up to a full month. They will have a bigger stake in the game come the offseason. And they will have heightened expectations when they show up for work next fall.
All of this brings us to the Red Sox, who are a reminder of just how much things have changed here over the last 20 years or so and how warped the standards in Boston now are compared t other markets. (There is nothing wrong with that second point, either.) The Red Sox have won two straight division titles for the first time since divisional play began in baseball … and the simple truth is that we look at them as a disappointment. There are fans in many other markets who think we are all spoiled brats as a result – and they’re right – but that doesn’t mean the Red Sox stink.
Can they be good enough this year? Given the improvements made by the Yankees and the budding dynasty that seems to exist in Houston, it doesn’t feel like it. But they shouldn’t be ignored, either. The final, season-opening roster isn’t set yet. Many of their core players haven’t hit their ceilings yet. A full year of Rafael Devers could make a difference. Andrew Benintendi is still improving.
Here’s the point: do we feel good about the Red Sox right now? No. But they have talent. They need to win in October to prove to us that they are something more than a B or B-plus outfit, and they obviously need to get there first. But they should be a playoff team again,. And a lot can change on the baseball landscape between now and then.
And so, when will Boston win its next championship? Maybe Sunday. Maybe later in the year. Maybe not for a while. There is just no way to know. But what we do know is that the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and even Red Sox should have at least a hand in determining the next title winners in their respective leagues, which is the way it has been here now for nearly two decades.
So lock the doors, keep on the lights and turn up the music.
Nobody is going home yet.