That may sound hyperbolic but it's true. I always wanted to be a sports writer and work in the sports media industry, but it all would have been a lot different had I come onto the scene in a different time. As a freelancer just out of college, I had the opportunity to cover the Celtics run to another NBA Finals in 2010. In my young career I have now covered the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup in 2011, the Patriots making it to Super Bowl XLVI, the Bruins playing in another Stanley Cup Final in 2013, and the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2013.
We may never win another championship again in my life time, but those blessed opportunities to be a part of covering those games and sharing those moments with my city and the country.... that will fuel my fire for the rest of my career. That's why I wanted to write this piece and take such care and time with it. These memories are in my heart every day as I pursue this dream career; and when the chips are down and I feel tired or discouraged, they stir up my passion and kick start my instinctual need to always chase that feeling. That feeling in these moments. I'm a sports junkie, and I'll always want more.
Patriots Win Super Bowl XXXVIII
First of all, for non-Patriots fans this game is largely remembered for its infamous halftime show that coined the term "wardrobe malfunction". Of course Janet Jackson's exposed nipple on the highest viewed telecast of the year doesn't sit at the forefront of my nostalgia as it perhaps does for so many others. It's a shame really, because outside of its pop culture relevance it's also widely considered to be one of the more exciting and dynamic Super Bowls in recent memory.
The Patriots were continuing on their dynastic rise, posting an elite and league-leading 14-2 regular season record. On the other hand the Panthers were a fairy tale story, appearing in the Super Bowl after going 1-15 in the 2002 season just one year prior. The game started out slow and defensive, going scoreless for almost 27 minutes; then the teams traded scoring possessions quickly before the end of the half, leading to a Patriots 14-10 halftime lead. The third quarter mirrored the first, with no scoring.
Then came a Super Bowl viewer's dream.
The 4th quarter featured 37 total points scored, the most in a Super Bowl and the most in any quarter by two teams. The fourth quarter was also the second in Super Bowl history to have five touchdowns scored in a single quarter, and it was the first time in Super Bowl history that both teams scored at least two touchdowns in the same quarter. The Patriots emerged on top, once again on a kick from Adam Vinatieri that would go 41 yards through the uprights to seal their second Super Bowl victory with a final score of 32-29.
In that game, the Patriots and Panthers combined for 868 yards of total offense, with both Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme throwing for at least 300 yards. That type of yardage by two QBs in a single Super Bowl had only happened one other time; when Dan Marino and Joe Montana did it in Super Bowl XIX.
Celtics Win 2008 NBA Finals
This remains the only Celtics championship I can remember, but the drama of it all is enough to last me a while. The massive league-shifting trade that brought Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to the C's is for sure the most high-profile and effective trade that a Boston team has made since I've been a sports fan. After a dismal 2006-2007 season in which they finished 24-58, the Celtics organization was ready to stop it's downward spiral. Any fan of today's NBA will tell you how tough it is to watch a superstar waste away on a crappy team; and that's exactly what was happening to Paul Pierce.
So the Celtics decided they weren't packing up and going home; they were going big. In addition to Garnett and Allen, the Celtics drafted Glen Davis and brought in veterans Eddie House and Sam Cassell to boost their bench. All of the sudden the Celtics weren't just better; they were unstoppable. The new "Big Three" of Ray, KG and Paul led the green to a 66-16 record, giving them an all-time NBA record 42-game turnaround from the previous season. Their 66 wins would be the second most in franchise history, after the 67 wins from the legendary 1985-1986 team.
To top off what is the closest thing to a perfect season in the NBA that I can remember, the Celtics got to face their legendary rival Lakers in the Finals. They won the series at the TD Garden in Game 6, and put an exclamation point on their victory by demolishing the Lakers with a final score of 131-93.
It really doesn't get much better than that. The only thing I regret about seeing Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen win a championship together is that they didn't join forces when they were younger. Although since they didn't, I get to make up the hypothetical dynasty they could have had; which is almost just as fun.
Patriots Win Super Bowl XXXIX
At this point I was a senior in high school. My mom had let me skip school to go to the Patriots duck boat parade the year before. We'd literally JUST celebrated the Red Sox winning the world series three months prior, and I was staring down the barrel of another day off from school for another parade. It was like make believe.
Of course had it been the era of Facebook and Twitter, my elation could have been dampened by those across the country that were beginning to get real sick of Boston fans and their championships. Fortunately we were still about two years away from the social media revolution, so I was in a largely Boston via South Shore bubble. All I had around me was electric energy that only fed my high. I miss those days...
It also didn't suck to beat the Eagles. I liked the idea that we were beating a team that other people seemed to despise, although it didn't take me long to realize that the Patriots were on their way to being one of the most hated teams in the country.
No matter. The Patriots won the game 24-21, albeit nearly allowing the Eagles to make a comeback. It didn't feature the drama of the previous Super Bowl, but what it did feature was my favorite Super Bowl wide-receiver of all time; Mr. Deion Branch. Branch made an NFL record-tying 11 catches for 133 yards, and joined a group of very few NFL players to be named the Super Bowl MVP without catching a touchdown or throwing for one. On the backs of Branch and a Pats defense that forced four Philadelphia turnovers, New England won their third Super Bowl in four years.
Damn, it felt good to be a #dynasty.
RED SOX WIN 2004 WORLD SERIES
At first thought I figured this would be my number one. Sure the Patriots had won two Super Bowls by this time, but this was a turning point for the biggest and most loyal fan base in our city. I suppose the reason it's down here at number four is because it was so extremely hard for it not to feel anticlimactic after the ALCS vs. the Yankees. That series was one of, if not the greatest in the history of sports. The World Series still has a hard time competing with that memory.
Still, as far as I am concerned it's the end result of a championship that validated that amazing comeback in the ALCS. That's why the World Series is ranked here. There is no ultimate historic glory in winning the American League pennant; it had to be the World Series. The Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals and became the fourth team ever to win a World Series without ever trailing in any of the games.
I've gotten teary-eyed during all of these moments because I am a total cry baby. This one is the only one that really made me weep though. It was cathartic, knowing in some way it connected me to my Dad and to my Mimi; a long-time Red Sox fan who loved Pedro Martinez and Big Papi. She passed away less than one month after they won. Even just looking at the picture above with Curt, Papi and Pedro still gets me all choked up.
Bruins Win 2011 Stanley Cup Finals
Playoff hockey is phenomenal. Anyone who pays attention to the hockey knows that no sport picks ups it's pace, level of play or display of talent for the postseason better than the NHL. That's why this particular championship is so high on the list. That, and because the battle in the Finals against the Canucks was just about as brutal and beautiful and grueling and dramatic as a series can get. Covering it for Comcast SportsNet New England became my first real submersion into commitment to nearly 24-hour days of constant grinding work to cover a sporting event, and I loved every minute of it.
You've already read a lot from me about this postseason run, including the emotional loss of Nathan Horton and the statistical and historical brilliance of TIm Thomas' performance in net. Other dramatics included Alexandre Burrows blatantly biting Patrice Bergeron's finger, and Roberto Luongo complaining that he'd been "pumping [Tim Thomas'] tires the entire series and I haven't heard one nice thing he had to say about me"; to which Thomas comically responded, "I didn't realize it was my job to pump his tires...".
Needless to say there was very little love lost between Boston and Vancouver on the ice for those seven games, and it couldn't have made for a better final victory. Three of their four series that postseason went to seven games, and as a viewer it was both exhausting and thrilling. The team itself was a perfect blend of classy hardworking veterans like Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi, Dennis Seidenberg mixed with the offensive physicality of Milan Lucic, the accomplished two-way play of Patrice Bergeron, the scrappy speed and instigation of Brad Marchand, the insane offensive skill of David Krejci and Tyler Seguin, the devoted enforcing of Shawn Tornton and a heaping helping of 3rd and 4th line excellence from guys like Chris Kelly, Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley.
It was the kind of team and the kind of series that makes a 39-year drought almost worth it. The Bruins were the fourth and final of the major Boston teams to win a championship in an the eight-year span; and they did it with all the style, historical implications and larger-than-life personalities that we had come to love and expect in Boston.
Red Sox Win 2013 World Series
This may seem oddly placed in my list considering all I've said about the historical and emotional implications of many of these other championships. This one is special for a different reason though.
I moved to Los Angeles by way of a seasonal gig that I was offered at the NFL Network. I was offered the job on August 28, 2013, and I began working in LA on that September 25th. It came along very quickly, and before I knew it I had driven 3,000 miles across the country with only the possessions that I could fit into my Hyundai Elantra. I was in a new city with no family and no friends to speak of.
The whirlwind of the move took a long time to catch up to me, so homesickness rarely kicked in. I was living the dream working for the NFL Network and being truly on my own for the first time in my life, and that was liberating and inspiring but could easily have become overwhelming and lonely. That's why as the resident Boston girl in a new town, it was a godsend to have the Red Sox in my life. I barely realized it at the time, but looking back I see that with no cable and no friends, it gave me the motivation to seek out new places to watch and be social; and that was huge for me.
I found Sonny McLean's in Santa Monica, and it soon became my second home. Nearly everyone there during Patriots, Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox games was a Boston fan. It was indescribable to have that much of a piece of home after moving so far away. When the Red Sox reached the World Series, I knew I had a place. If you were at Sonny's for a World Series game, the only way you'd know you weren't in Boston is if you stepped outside and saw the palm trees.
During Game 6, the crows was so big that I waited in line outside the bar for an hour before I could get in. I peered through the barred windows with other die-hard fans down the side alley as David Ortiz came up to bat, formidable as ever at the plate. He was intentionally walked four times by the terrified pitching staff of the Cardinals, and seeing him continually inspire and ignite the Red Sox nine years after his first World Series with them was just indescribable. There I was, in the middle of a new city on the other side of the country, watching Ortiz and the Red Sox beat Mike Matheny and the Cardinals in the World Series. Again. It was surreal, and the comfort and safety it brought to the chaotic newness of my life was integral to my transition here.
The video above is one I took inside the bar at the moment the Sox won Game 6. It's one of my best memories since coming to my new city. That team and that World Series will always have a special place in my heart.
Patriots Win Super Bowl XXXVI
This game was all about just being a fan. At the time that the Patriots won the AFC Championship game, I didn't care about the Rams being the "Greatest Show on Turf" or the fact that the last game the Patriots had lost was to the Rams in the regular season. I didn't care about Kurt Warner or Marshall Faulk. I was too caught up in my own excitement at the Patriots making it back to the Super Bowl that I barely even bothered to be nervous.
Until the game started. That's when I realized that since I'd been born, Boston teams rarely got this far and it always ended miserably when they did. That's when I realized that Kurt Warner and his nearly 5,000 yards and 101.4 quarterback rating on the season was the type of QB that won Super Bowls. Tom Brady was a 24-year-old backup who'd had a great season with an inspired defense, some big plays from offensive no-namers and a few lucky breaks. Warner and his Rams were the type of team that won Super Bowls. Backup Brady and his gang of merry Patriots did not.
Except they did.
They won that Super Bowl, and everything I'd known as a Boston sports fan was turned upside down. Underdog teams could win. Perennial losers could become champions. Tom Brady could become one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL and leave Kurt Warner in his dust.
This was the championship that started it all. It inspired me to talk about it and write about it. It gave me hope that the 41 years of torturous letdowns my Dad had endured in his short life wouldn't be passed on to another generation. It turned out to be the start of something in New England and Boston that I wouldn't have dared even dream about. It doesn't matter how many rushing yards they accumulated or how many touchdowns were thrown or who played at halftime. I don't even feel the need to recap the game at all, because the box score wasn't why this game was special.
It was special because as far as being a sports fan goes, it will never be any better than that moment you finally get to believe.