November 17, 2004
Patriots Better Team, Sox Bigger Win
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
Sunday night at Gillette Stadium was perfect in many ways.
Bob Kraft picked this game to invite the world champion Red Sox to get cheered by Patriot Nation. The last two Fenway home openers have featured members of the world champion Patriots coming out to near bedlam, and then lining up to throw out the first pitch of the season. You have seen Tom Brady in the Red Sox dugout schmoozing with Pedro Martinez; Sunday night, you saw Curt Schilling hobble on crutches all the way to the 50-yard line wearing a Brady jersey.
It was Boston sports royalty like no one has ever seen around these parts. Simply stated, this has never happened before in Boston sports history, two teams being champs at the same time. What with all those Celtics titles, the two Stanley Cups the Bruins won in this time frame happened to occur smack dab in between the Bill Russell Era and the Dave Cowens/John Havlicek Era. Right now is the high water mark in the history of pro sports in this region. The Red Sox and the Patriots are both world champions. Both teams came together at Gillette Stadium Sunday night, and it rubber-stamped this region as being the current pro sports hotbed right now.
Now, if you’re out there wearing your “City Of Champions” t-shirt from 1986 (Yours Truly had one of them) and are complaining that back then was the real apex in Boston sports history instead of right now, sit back down and rethink the situation. Only the Celtics were world champs back then. The Sox and Patriots both lost their league finals that year. That t-shirt was a sad expose on how close the Red Sox came to winning the 1986 World Series, nothing more.
Well, it’s been three weeks now, plenty of time to fully digest the World Series win by the Red Sox. Nine months ago, we saw Duck Boat Rally I thanks to the Patriots finishing off their historic 17-2 season with a Super Bowl win over Carolina. Now, we have just enjoyed Duck Boat Rally II, with the Red Sox pulverizing the St. Louis Cardinals in four straight, and the boats hitting the water as well as the streets.
Now, the time has come to place this Red Sox championship in proper perspective, as well as give the Patriots their props. Which win was bigger, the Super Bowl or the World Series? And which of these two teams rules New England?
Tough questions, both of them. Time to hunker down and serve up some analysis and some answers as well.
If you ask everyone who follows football to list their all-time five best Super Bowls, it’s a good bet that Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII make most every list. It’s also not that far-fetched that most of those lists will show these two Super Bowls as 1-2. The Patriots won two of the most exciting championship games in the history of our nation, let alone the NFL. Adam Vinatieri could retire tomorrow, God forbid, and would subsequently draw consideration for a plot in Canton, Ohio.
Yet a simple World Series win, a series with a miniscule amount of drama, probably overshadows both watershed NFL games quite easily in New England. There was no question as to who the better team was in the Series. Except for a close Game 1, the Sox simply dominated the Cardinals. The Redbirds never led at all, and the Sox swept a best-of-seven game series for the first time in franchise history.
How could such an easy win overshadow possibly the two best Super Bowls in history? The answer is just that. History.
The Red Sox made history left and right once September became October. Two of their three postseason wins were in sweeps. The one that wasn’t was a playoff series like no other in the 104-year history of modern professional baseball. Never before had a team lost the first three games of a playoff series, and then come back to win the final four games and the series. And the team they pulled off that unprecedented feat against was none other than the vermin from Jerome Avenue, the Evil Empire, the 26-time world champion New York Yankees.
This was the finest October in the 384-year history of the city of Boston. David Ortiz knocks out the Angels on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the tenth to sweep the Angels. The Sox humiliate the Yankees with the sweetest win in franchise history, and in return hung on the Yankees the worst loss in their history. To top it off, the Red Sox finally beat down the Curse of the Bambino and won their first World Series since 1918. That’s 86 years of deep personal feelings which were finally quenched on the night of October 27th. People thought of ancestors, both living and deceased, who either finally got to see it after all these years, or didn’t live long enough.
Like it or not, the Patriots simply cannot match this sentiment.
Both Super Bowls have their special place in New England lore, as well as in NFL history. Both games sent New England into outer space, and the Patriots continue to be a strong source of regional pride. It’s just that whoever predicted that “this would be bigger if the Sox won” at the Patriot rallies was right on. The Patriots simply don’t mark the time like the Red Sox do. To offer up some more perspective, at the time of Ted Williams’ Home Run In His Last At Bat, the Patriots had played only three games in franchise history.
That is why the Red Sox winning the World Series was a far greater achievement.
Kraft has been a frequent guest of John Henry at Fenway. Kraft is a big Sox fan. Henry is a big Kraft fan. He wanted to model the Sox after the Patriots.
Succinctly, he has done just that, in many different ways.
And this emulation by Henry is conclusive proof that the Patriots rule New England as the primo franchise. They are the ultimate standard of excellence in the region, the league, and the entire nation as well. The Patriots simply exude winning. They are the ultimate model sports franchise. It’s almost like they do absolutely nothing wrong.
Henry has taken Kraft’s model and implemented it at Fenway, and the results speak for themselves. Hire the right people for the job, bring in players more dedicated to the team than to themselves, and make everything as fan friendly as possible. The Red Sox have rather quickly transformed from the aloof feel of John Harrington and Dan Duquette to the newest model baseball franchise.
Henry brought in Tom Werner to revolutionize television coverage of the Sox. He brought in Larry Lucchino to run the front office. Lucchino brought in Theo Epstein to show everyone that the stat way is the right way. Epstein brought in Terry Francona to extrapolate the stat way onto the ball field.
But this is basically what Kraft did down in Foxborough. He charged his son with the day-to-day operations. He brought in Bill Belichick to run the football division. Belichick brought in Scott Pioli to help with bringing the right guys to Foxborough. Belichick brought in Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel to run the offense and defense respectively. Belichick had the smarts to know to stick with Tom Brady as his quarterback in 2001.
This was the blueprint that Henry copied. In both organizations, highly qualified people are doing their jobs and doing them well. But it was Kraft who led the way, and is the preeminent owner in pro sports today. The Patriots haven’t won 25 of their last 28 games by accident. The Patriots are an organization which, in everyone’s pursuit of excellence, hit the mother lode and got a bigger gusher than Jed Clampett.
So, in terms of the better franchise, the Patriots get the nod over the Red Sox. The Patriots deserve their perch atop the Boston sports world.
But the Red Sox climbed a bigger mountain in 2004. Their World Series win goes down as the single most important event in Boston sports history. For all that it meant to the region, there is no other event which comes close, not even two skull-imploding Super Bowls or a Bobby Orr overtime goal or a triple-overtime Celtic win. This World Series win by the Sox was the greatest thing you will ever see as a Boston sports fan.
The Sox titles that follow (you all hope that there are more to come, and not 86 years from now) will not outdo the two Super Bowls. Super Bowl XXXVI is number two and XXXVIII is number three. This will remain the top three for many years to come.
You love all championships. You will love the 2004 World Series better than them all. And you will always cherish the fact that you finally, finally, finally got to see the Red Sox win it all, that it actually did happen in your lifetime.
The world champion Red Sox. The world champion Patriots. Things have never been better around here.
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