HOUSTON — The confetti has been vacuumed from NRG Stadium, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick had their frozen-smile handshake with Roger Goodell, and the air pressure in the Duck Boat tires is a perfect 13.5 psi.
But the hangover from the Patriots’ Sunday night Super Bowl victory still pounds in our heads.
And I ask you: Was this the greatest story in Boston’s long sports history?
Your answer might depend on how the question is framed. So let’s agree that we won’t argue greatest “moment” — such as Bobby Orr flying through the air in 1970, Carlton Fisk clanging one off the foul pole in 1975, Ted Williams saying goodbye in 1999, or Malcolm Butler intercepting at the goal line in 2015.
And let’s not compare all the championships. This doesn’t have to be Patriots 2016 vs. Red Sox 2013 vs. Larry beating Magic in the 1984 Finals vs. the Big Bad Bruins sweeping the Blues in 1970.
No. This little exercise will pose this question and this question only: What is the greatest Boston sports story of all time?
I have only two nominations: the 2004 Red Sox championship playoff ride . . . and the Patriots’ miracle comeback in Houston, capping the Deflategate revenge tour with the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Sorry, it’s just these two for our greatest sports “story.’’
Let the arguments begin.
As great as this Patriots saga feels at this moment, there’s a lot to be said for the Biblical story of the 2004 Red Sox. I was surprised at the number of readers/tweeters who challenged me Sunday night/Monday morning when I submitted on the front page of the Globe that the Patriots’ pulsating win “might very well be the greatest moment in Boston sports history.’’ A lot of you reacted quickly in defense of the tale of the Red Sox.
It’s a strong case. The 2004 Red Sox were set up by their 86-year drought and all the events that preceded the epic comeback against the Yankees.
The 2004 Red Sox were fighting off eight decades of history that started when Boston shipped its best player, Babe Ruth, to the Yankees in a cash deal. After that, the Yankees won 26 championships and the Sox won zero. Worse, many Sox failures came at the expense of the Pinstripes. There were epic folds. There was Bucky Dent.
And then, in 2003, just when it looked as though the Sox were ready to break through, we had Grady Little and Aaron Boone.
This was the absolute zenith of baseball angst and popularity in our region. After Boone’s extra-inning homer, the Sox and Yankees engaged in a winter arms race, both teams battling for Alex Rodriguez, then the best player in the game. The Sox had A-Rod for a while, but the trade was nullified. New York bagged the big fish on Valentine’s Day, and the Sox “settled” for acquisitions named Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling.
And it played out deliciously. In October, the Yankees took a three-games-to-none series lead, winning Game 3, 19-8, on a sad Saturday night at Fenway. The situation was hopeless — sort of like trailing a Super Bowl game, 28-3, with three minutes left in the third quarter.
And then Dave Roberts happened. And then David Ortiz happened. The Bloody Sock happened. The Sox overwhelmed the Yankees in four straight games. It was never done before (in baseball) and has never been done since. And then the Red Sox went on to win the World Series and folks went to cemeteries and put flowers and notes and champagne bottles on the graves of loved ones who never got to see it happen. A movie was made and dozens of books were written.
It was New England’s greatest sports story ever told . . .
. . . until now?
Sunday night’s skull-imploding Patriot win was much more than a single championship won in a single football game. It was a comeback that no team had achieved in a one-game championship. It put Brady and Belichick on a platform above all other quarterbacks and coaches.
And it was the culmination of the two-year saga of Deflategate.
What is the greatest story in Boston sports history?— Boston Globe Sports (@BGlobeSports) February 6, 2017
The Patriots got their revenge. All family business was settled. The haters are always going to be out there, but now there is absolutely nothing they can say.
It boggles the mind to think about all that went into this. The Patriots were branded as cheaters. Goodell tried to hurt them when they wouldn’t cooperate with his investigation. He took their money. He took a coveted first-round draft pick. And he took away their quarterback for a full quarter of the season.
Things seemed to be working out nicely for the Ginger Hammer when the Patriots fell behind, 21-0, in the first half. The haters were ready with the traditional taunts: The Patriots were nothing more than fortunate sons of the AFC East. They played the easiest schedule in the NFL in 2016. They did not face any elite quarterbacks.
And there they were, going down hard. After all the anger and hubris and arrogance demonstrated by their fans, the Patriots were getting exposed in the biggest game of them all. For almost three full quarters, they were the Tomato Cans.
And then they reminded us why they have been so good for so long. Trailing, 28-3, Belichick and Ernie Adams made adjustments and stared down the guys on the other sideline. They made the Falcons panic. Atlanta lost its mind. Dan Quinn and Kyle Shanahan stopped doing what any high school football coach would do. They choked the game away.
The Patriots never choke. They always know what to do in that situation.
They scored four touchdowns and kicked a field goal. They converted a pair of 2-point conversions. Easily. They produced a catch for the ages by Julian Edelman. Brady orchestrated a 91-yard TD drive that sent the game into overtime. Brady played even better than his hero, Joe Montana.
The best part of the Goodell moment after the game was thousands of Patriot fans rendering the Commish inaudible. All you could hear was booing.
It was the culmination of the greatest Boston sports story of all time . . . unless you like the Red Sox of 2004.
Which one, folks?
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at email@example.com