I’ve had some time to let the ridiculous and near-impossible comeback of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI sink in and really reflect on it.
It looked as if it was over going into the fourth quarter and I was dreading how the media would handle it - what the headlines would be about being “deflated” or how we couldn’t “cheat” our way out of this win.
But as the fourth quarter kept rolling, so did the Pats and they sent the game into overtime where on the last play I was on the edge of my seat, heart pounding, hands shaking and my poor boyfriend’s arm getting hit and grabbed with every play.
When James White went into the end zone to end the game and seal the win for New England, I jumped, I yelled and I was just so excited to see something so amazing happen.
The comeback made me think about the 2004 Red Sox and what they accomplished to the win the World Series that year. It made me reflect on how I acted 12 years ago, how I felt that same heart-pounding, hand-shaking feelings as I watched Keith Foulke toss the ball to first for the final out.
Since the 34-28 win, there have been many comparisons of the two championship victories. Who had the better comeback – the Pats or the Sox? While it may be hard to find an answer because of how different the sports are, I can say it was the Red Sox who had the better comeback.
Don’t get me wrong, seeing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hand over the trophy to a team he spent two years trying to destroy was magical. Watching Matt Patricia get off the team plane with a Barstool Goodell shirt was incredible, but it just doesn’t beat the Red Sox breaking an 86-year curse a year after they had just fallen short the previous year.
Each championship victory gets a little sweeter and I learn to appreciate them more as I get older.
But there was something so special about that 2004 Red Sox team.
I had just turned 15 the day they won it all – I considered it a late birthday present to myself. But to look back and reflect on what the Sox had to do to get there makes it all the more special - especially when the year before they missed the World Series after Aaron Boone taught me what heartbreak was.
They finished the 2004 season with a record of 98-64 behind their rival and team that broke my and the hearts of millions the year before, the New York Yankees, who finished with a 101-61 record. At one point, Boston was eight games behind the Evil Empire and it looked as if another heartbreak was bound to happen.
But on July 24th, third baseman Bill Mueller hit a walk-off home run to beat the Yanks and overcome a five-run deficit to win the game. Mueller hit the homer off the great Mariano Rivera.
This was also the game many claim broke the 86-year curse of the Bambino after Alex Rodriguez got into the face of catcher Jason Varitek, spewing profanities before Varitek launched his mit into the face of Rodriguez.
Theo Epstein, the general manager of the Sox at the time, traded their star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz and also traded for Dave Roberts in a separate transaction.
Who knew Roberts would play such a crucial role in the playoffs.
In the ALDS, Boston swept the Anaheim Angels and advanced to the ALCS for a rematch against the New York Yankees. It was both exciting and terrifying because Red Sox Nation learned star pitcher Curt Schilling tore a tendon in his ankle in Game 1 and the heartbreak of 2003 became a frequent flashback as the two teams got set to face off yet again.
Despite the tendon tear, Schilling was on the mound for Game 1. He gave up eight runs through six innings and the game looked out of reach. Boston fought back to make it 8-7, but ultimately lost 10-7.
No big deal. It’s only the first game, right?
They lost the next game…and the next. Game 3 was a big loss not only because the Sox were now one loss away from falling short of the World Series again, but because it was a 19-8 loss at home.
Game 4 was when the magic began to happen for Boston. Facing elimination and down by one in the ninth inning, Roberts came in to pinch run for Kevin Millar.
Roberts narrowly stole second base and every time I watch the throw down to second, it seems as if the tag gets closer and closer.
The Red Sox ended up winning Game 4.
And Game 5.
And Game 6, with Schilling back on the mound with his infamous bloody sock.
It was now Game 7 with the series tied 3-3. Could Boston do what no team has done before and come back after being down 0-3 to advance to the World Series?
Johnny Damon hit two home runs in the game – one being a grand slam in the second. Once that ball left the park, I knew that was it.
The Red Sox won 10-3 and were going to the World Series where they swept the St. Louis Cardinals to become the 2004 World Series champions for the first time in 86 years.
Boston’s World Series win was more than just another championship for the city. It restored faith in the Red Sox, it brought happiness to so many people – young and old.
Sure, seeing the Patriots come back in the fourth quarter and win it all after Tom Brady was suspended for four games was amazing.
But that win felt more like a revenge win. The fans were more focused on watching Goodell hand over the Vince Lombardi trophy (myself included) to the team he tried so desperately to destroy. Headlines in the newspaper targeted Goodell more than the win whereas headlines for 2004 read “Finally!” which really captured just how special the 2004 World Series was.
For Boston to do what they did – come back after being down three games to their long-term rival, to overcome all of the curse chatter, a trade of their All-Star shortstop, the bloody sock, was nothing short of magical.
I have watched baseball since I was three-years-old and played softball for 14 years of my life. I, like the Red Sox, had been through the heartbreak of losing out on a championship.
But what stuck with is what my coach said one year. “Winning four games in a row is the hardest thing to do.”
And he wasn’t talking about winning four games in the regular season. He was talking about winning four games in a row to come back and win it all – much like the Red Sox did.
For four-straight games, the Red Sox faced elimination. They found themselves down during some of those games, but never quit because if they did, they knew their season would be over.
For four-straight games, the Red Sox had to give it everything they had. They had to play their best baseball.
And they did.
In no way am I taking away what the Patriots accomplished this season. But if you sit back and just reflect on both amazing title wins, you’ll see the Red Sox had to do a little more to bring their championship trophy home to Boston.
But let’s just marvel how great Boston teams are:
The Patriots are Super Bowl champions.
The Celtics are in second place.
The Bruins are undefeated under their interim head coach.
The Red Sox season opener is less than two months away.
Here’s to a solid 2017 in Boston sports.
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