Welcome to BU. It’s Time You Learned about Boston Sports
Why do sports fans in other cities hate Boston so much? Oh, right—because our teams can’t stop winning
So you’re a new student in Boston. Welcome. Maybe you’re from Philly. Or New York. Or Beijing. Or Sydney. Or Tampa. Or L.A. Those are all great cities. But here’s the thing you need to know. This is “Title Town,” a city that’s hosted 12 championship parades for its four major sports franchises since 2000. We’re the city that every other city hates because of all that winning. And at some point, it’s probably going to be hard for you not to hop on the Beantown bandwagon. This story will help you when you finally make the jump.
The Boston Celtics hold the record for the most NBA championships, with 17 (the last one in 2008). The Boston Red Sox swung their way out of the shadow of the New York Yankees when they won the World Series in 2004, and then again in 2007, 2013, and last year, 2018, after a painful 86-year drought. The New England Patriots, also known as the NFL’s super villains, have earned all six of their Super Bowls this century, under quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick (Hon.’04). The Boston Bruins have won six Stanley Cups in the NHL, the fourth-most all-time, and they have missed the playoffs just twice in the last 12 seasons, snagging the title in 2011.
Now that you’re caught up on the titles, let’s dig a little deeper with a mini cheat sheet.
It might not seem like it now, but the Boston Red Sox used to have a curse hanging over them. Known as the “Curse of the Bambino,” it started when they traded the legendary Babe Ruth to their biggest rivals, the New York Yankees, in 1918. The Sox went decade after heartbreaking decade without winning a World Series, until 2004, when, down 0-3 to the Yankees, they bowled over their NY rivals four in a row to grab the American League pennant and get to the series. The Sox then swept the St. Louis Cardinals, thanks to the efforts of Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz (Hon.’17), Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, and other franchise greats.
Although the Yankees dominated the 20th century while the Red Sox suffered under the curse, the Sox have reclaimed the American League since the turn of the century, winning all four of the World Series they’ve reached since 2000, more than any team in the league.
They brought a World Series to Boston in 2018, but this year sit in third place in the American League East and the playoffs seem unlikely, which is why Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, was fired this week, even though the Red Sox had one of the greatest seasons in baseball history just one year ago.
Still, the core from 2018 remains, including 2018 AL MVP, right fielder Mookie Betts, three-time All-Star designated hitter J. D. Martinez, two-time All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, one-time All-Star center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., rising star third baseman Rafael Devers, catcher Christian Vazquez, and left fielder Andrew Benintendi. Most impressive is that of that core, all but Martinez are home-grown, meaning they came up through the Red Sox minor league system, a rarity in today’s game.
New England Patriots
Most cities are lucky if they have one dominant team for a prolonged stretch. Boston has two. Since 2000, the Pats have had even more success than the Red Sox. Because of the six Lombardi trophies they’ve lifted between 2001 and 2019, the triumvirate of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and owner Robert Kraft have turned into the league’s villains. It’s been an unprecedented run in a sport where the average career length is only 3.3 years.
Brady, playing in his 20th season, is officially no longer human, a point he drove home emphatically in the team’s season-opening 33-3 romp over Pittsburgh Sunday. He has made a career of making undersized wide receivers look like All-Pro–caliber players, and now that the fan-favorite party animal, tight end Rob Gronkowski, has retired, the Pats will rely on Brady to work his magic even more in going after their seventh Super Bowl championship.
The Pats defense has a lot of talent at its disposal: All-Pro and two-time Pro-Bowler Stephon Gilmore, fellow Pro Bowl veterans Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, and Devin McCourty, and McCourty’s brother, Jason McCourty, lead the way on that side of the ball. On offense, Brady still has one of his favorite weapons ever, wide receiver Julian Edelman, as well as running backs Sony Michel and James White.
Additionally, wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, out because of injury, and Josh Gordon, returning from suspension, could jump into action when ready. Both players have spent time in the highest tiers of wideouts in the NFL, but 31-year-old Thomas is recovering from an Achilles injury and 28-year-old Gordon has dealt with mental health and substance abuse issues throughout his career.
Drama aside, if there is only one certainty in Boston sports these days, it’s this: as long as Brady and Belichick are together, the Patriots will contend for the championship and the rest of the league will hate them for it.
The Celtics have arguably the most illustrious history in American sports—unfortunately, that history is from another lifetime. Yes, they have 17 championships, but that was then—they won 8 straight from 1959 to 1966, and another 3 in the 1980s. Bill Russell (Hon.’02) led the Celts to 11 championships during their amazing run in the 1950s and ’60s, and the legendary Larry Bird (Hon.’09) won 3 titles in his 13 seasons with the team. If you know only two Celtics names, know those two and you’re good.
The last Celtics title came in 2008, after the team signed one of the greatest shooters of all time, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett, one of the best power forwards in the league at the time, to play with All-Star small forward Paul Pierce. That trio led the way to the championship over the Los Angeles Lakers.
After a disappointing 2018-2019 season, the Celtics have seen major changes to their starting lineup during the off-season. They lost six-time All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and five-time All-Star center Al Horford to free agency. Both players went to division rivals: Irving to the Brooklyn Nets and Horford to the Philadelphia 76ers.
General manager and team legend Danny Ainge replaced Irving with All-Star–caliber point guard Kemba Walker and signed a lesser big man, Enes Kanter, to step in for Horford at center. The team will be relying on Walker, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, and Jaylen Brown to do most of the scoring.
Tatum and Brown are two of the best young wings (shooting guards and small forwards who usually excel at scoring and defense) in the NBA, and Hayward, another wing, made the All-Star game in 2017 when he played for the Utah Jazz. At the start of the 2017-2018 season, in the first quarter of his first-ever game as a Celtic, Hayward suffered a severely broken leg and has struggled to return to his best since then. If you know that tidbit, you’ll sound like a smart Celtics fans.
Also know this: their season starts on October 23 in Philadelphia against Horford and the 76ers and that game will be huge. Then they kick things off in Boston on October 25 against the defending champion Toronto Raptors. If those two games look good, watch out.
In a town with so much winning, you’d think the Bruins, with one title this century, could be the overlooked franchise. In fact, their fan base might just be the most passionate of any of Boston’s four major teams. And unlike the other teams, there is a very BU reason to root for them: several former Terriers play for them.
The Bruins have reached the Stanley Cup finals three times since 2010, winning it all in 2011, and most recently, losing in seven games to the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 series.
One of the best parts of the Bruins as a franchise is their striking number of longtime talent: their core of Zdeno Chará, Brad Marchand, David Krejčí, and Patrice Bergeron have played for the Bruins for 10 seasons or more. Of those players, only Chará has suited up for another NHL franchise during his career, but he has represented the Bruins faithfully since the team named him captain when he signed a five-year deal in 2006. The Bruins drafted all four of their top four scorers: Marchand, Krejčí, Bergeron, and David Pastrňák, who at age 23 already has five seasons of NHL action under his belt.
Not only do the Bruins rely on drafted talent in order to compete, they also have a healthy group of players from Boston University. Charlie Coyle played one full season at BU in 2010-2011, where he notched 7 goals and 19 assists in 37 games. The 6-foot-3 center left BU halfway through the 2011-2012 season to play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before joining up with the Minnesota Wild. He earned the record for most consecutive games played for the Wild, with 316 appearances, before he broke his leg early in the 2017-2018 season. The Bruins traded for him in February 2019 to gear up for their run for the Stanley Cup finals.
The Bruins also selected three other players who attended BU before landing in the NHL. Matt Grzelcyk (COM’16) played four years with the Terriers, while Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson played for two years on the BU team. Grzelcyk got drafted by the Bruins in the third round of the 2012 draft, Karlsson went in the second round with the 45th-overall pick in 2015, and McAvoy went 14th-overall in the first round of the 2016 draft.
This past season, 25-year-old defenseman Grzelcyk had the biggest role with the Bruins of any of the former Terriers, as he notched 18 points in 66 regular-season games and contributed 8 points in 20 playoff games. McAvoy, a 21-year-old defenseman who played in 54 regular-season games with 28 points and 8 points in 23 playoff games, became a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Touted as one of the best young defenders in the NHL, McAvoy is waiting for the Bruins to put up enough money for him to re-sign. He posted a top-five rating for scoring percentage, meaning opposing teams did not score 57 percent of the time he was on the ice. He also finished fifth in the race for the Calder Memorial Trophy, the NHL’s top rookie award, in the 2017-2018 season, a reflection of how much he learned while going from BU to the Bruins.
ESPN ranks the Bruins as the second-best team in the league going into the 2019-2020 season, which they begin with a road trip: playing the Dallas Stars on October 3, then the Arizona Coyotes, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, and the Colorado Avalanche before heading back to TD Garden to go up against the New Jersey Devils for their October 12 home opener.