After Red Sox and Patriots, do we dare dream of a championship ‘Slam’?
The duck boats have barely cooled their engines, and all of the Gronk Tide-Pods-and-beer shrapnel is still being cleaned from the gutters of Boylston Street. The latest Boston sports championship parade is scarcely 24 hours in the past, and yet all I keep thinking about this morning is when we might have the next one — and whether something even grander than a mere championship might be achievable.
Pardon the greed, all of you citizens of sad-sack sports cities (which means every other one of you right now, especially you, New York). This is about us, because it’s usually about us. This is how we roll — through the heart of the city, on some sweet amphibious vehicles, on a route and with a routine that is as familiar as the image of confetti falling on Tom Brady’s handsome head. I’d tell you to get used to it, but you already are. Give up and go buy a Still Here T-shirt already.
Boston’s primary professional sports franchises have won a dozen championships since 2001 — six for the defending world champion Patriots, four for the defending world champion Red Sox, and one each for the Celtics and Bruins — and already the baker’s dozen is on our mind.
Something more than that, actually. Call it the Single-City Slam.
Sure, I’ll ask. Could Boston have its four major professional sports teams all win championships in a one-year span?
If it happened — and we’ll get to the likelihood of that in a moment — it would be a first in sports history. In 2002, the Los Angeles Lakers and Angels won the NBA and MLB championships, and the city captured two more titles in smaller pro leagues — the Sparks won the WNBA title, and the Galaxy were MLS champs.
But the MLB/NFL/NBA/NHL superfecta has never hit. Detroit came closest in 1935-36 when the Lions, Tigers, and Red Wings all were champs. You can tell how long ago that was by the fact that the Lions were actually good at football.
Philadelphia made a spirited run at four championships in 1980-81. The Phillies won the World Series, while the Eagles, Sixers, and Flyers all lost in their respective finals. I’m sure the calm and reasonable fans of Philadelphia handled the 1 for 4 well and there were no more cars set on fire after those playoffs ended than there would have been on a usual Philly evening.
Heck, it’s tough to win even two titles in the same one-year period. Pittsburgh did it most recently in 2009 with the Steelers and Penguins. The last city to see its baseball and football teams win in the same year before the Red Sox and Patriots achieved it over the past 100-something days was . . . Boston in 2004-05. Man, we’re good at this sports stuff. So good, so good.
So I’ll ask the question that no one outside of Boston wants to consider: Is that elusive Single-City Slam possible this year? Can the Celtics and Bruins join the Patriots and Red Sox and slap another couple of miles on the duck boats’ odometers?
Well, as a certain former Celtic who enjoyed a duck boat ride himself in June of 2008 once told us: Anything is possssibbuuulllllll! Sure, that’s a decent distance from actually being likely, but it is not entirely out of the question that the Celtics and Bruins could emerge as champions this year.
I’m not sure which one of the two has the better chance. The Celtics are the better team, the favorite in the preseason to emerge from the Eastern Conference and presumably face the Warriors in the Finals. Their season hasn’t quite gone according to plan. The young players, rightfully impressed with their performance in the playoffs last season, have struggled to mesh with basketball genius Kyrie Irving, who has recently been playing his look-how-enigmatic-I-am games when he’s not putting on a show in the actual games.
But they’re currently playing well and have moved up to third in the East, and given how they’ve usually risen to the occasion against good teams, I still like their chances of overcoming the Raptors, Bucks, and reloaded Sixers (can’t wait to see how long it takes Tobias Harris to loathe playing with Jimmy Butler) to reach the Finals.
Still, the Warriors lurk, and unless mopey Kevin Durant’s pending free agency somehow undermines their mission, it’s hard to fathom anyone knocking them off.
The Bruins’ road to the Stanley Cup Final would be more grueling and winding, but it is fathomable that they can get there. They are currently fourth in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference with 65 points, just 2 back of second-place Toronto. The Lightning (81 points) have been the class of the conference, while the defending champion Capitals (64 points) have a bit of a Cup hangover, no surprise given that their celebration seemed perpetual through the offseason.
The Bruins have a flawed roster — David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron carry too much of the scoring burden. But a savvy move or two by general manager Don Sweeney at the Feb. 25 trading deadline — one that aids more than the acquisition of Rick Nash last year — could lead to a long postseason run.
The task of keeping up with the Patriots and Red Sox is a tall one for the Bruins and Celtics, but the Single-City Slam is still a possible right up until it isn’t. In the meantime, keep agitating all of those other cities that have already seen enough of our victory laps.