This is almost too good to be true. It's taken only a handful of years for Title Town to completely revert back to the blubbering, blundering, sad-sack Boston we all know and love. It has been eight years since the Patriots won a Super Bowl. Eight! That is almost an entire decade of complete and total futility.
Remember Title Town? Remember when Duck Boat parades seemed an annual rite?
My god, the Duck Boat parades. [looks up to sky into bitter, driving New England snow storm] Whyyyyyy?!?!?!?! Why did you make me drunk with the taste of success? It used to be easier. It used to be tolerable. We would lose and we could go on living life. Happy to wallow in our own terrible brand of losing. We've flown to close too the sun.
It was always the moments when victory slipped from our grasp - destiny skittering through Buckner's wickets; Grady leaving Pedro in; too many Bruins on the ice in Montreal - that shined brightest in memory, their retelling a kind of community glue.
Somewhere, in all the winning, we forgot about that.
Somewhere in all the winning, we took the Duck Boats for granted. Do I need to remind you of the Duck Boat processions? The first one was more than 10 years ago. 10 YEARS! T-E-N. Y-E-A-R-S-! If you had a kid back during the Duck Boat Procession era it would be something like 10 years old. Maybe even 11. Think about that.
That first Duck Boat procession in 2002, for the first of three Super Bowl wins in four seasons, was a salve for a fandom that had prided itself - defined itself - by its unrequited love for teams that never won it all. An annual Duck Boat debauch felt like something we had earned after cheering on the Bruins in vain for a generation, the Patriots for a lifetime, and the Red Sox forever. Even the Celtics, with all those banners, had fallen into a prolonged drought.
Even the successful team was kind of unsuccessful for a little while. It's enough to make you crazy. But back to the Patriots, specifically. It's pretty unfair to just be kind of dominant. It's almost like having some mysterious cardiovascular problem that even House, M.D. can't solve.
"It's pretty heartbreaking. I feel like I'm watching the same episode of a bad TV show each year," said Marc O'Brien, 38, a bartender at Anchovies restaurant in Boston's South End. "I can't believe we haven't gotten at least that fourth ring. I think we should have five, minimum. They could have been the best team ever."
It's basically over for the Pats. And the Sox, too. They're hopeless. The only hope, really, are the Bruins. The real problem now, though? The children. Specifically, the kids who missed out on the whole "awful, but we kind of love them for being awful" teams are so screwed up from these teams winning all the time and then all of a sudden not winning. It's like being from somewhere terrible but, importantly, that terrible place never experienced the success. It does not have the bitter memories of those Duck Boat debauches to remind the city of its own stinking failure.
Our hopes now rest with the Bruins, Stanley Cup winners in 2011 and among the favorites this year. And one dynasty is not enough for fans who expect four - like Sullivan's sons, ages 14 and 11, who grew up believing that rooting for a team is only about championships and success.
"Look at Cleveland," he said. "How would you want to live in Cleveland? How bad would it be to a Cleveland fan?"
To be fair, even people from Cleveland don't want to live in Cleveland. Terrible sports teams are just the peanut on top of the shit sundae. Besides, within this very same column, the argument is made that Boston used to be losers like Cleveland. And Bostonites used to revel in being lovable losers. So, there's got to be something else, other than perennially losing, that sets Boston apart from lesser cities.
"It's not just in sports," observed Bill Zeoli, 47, who has held Patriots season tickets since 1994 and would have been in New Orleans now if the team had made it to the Super Bowl. "It's a self-important-Boston thing: We're better than everybody else because we're the Cradle of Liberty and we have all these educational institutions and we know better than you. That sort of thing."