Boston sports teams show no signs of stopping.
If you listen to Boston sports radio, you’d know that New England’s biggest sports fans have no idea how good they have it. They’ve got four professional sports teams who could win a championship in 2018 or 2019.
So when my colleague Ryan Glasspiegel wrote that he thought Wisconsin would be the epicenter of sports for the foreseeable future, I politely disagreed. Boston is where it’s at. Wisconsin has one thing New England doesn’t: a successful college football team. Otherwise, Boston is dominant in college hockey.
Boston will be the sporting epicenter — not Wisconsin or Los Angeles (as The Big Lead editor Jason McIntyre would argue).
1. New England Patriots
Four words and two people: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady.
Brady has promised to play until he’s 45. Doubt him at your own risk. Belichick has been wise to avoid an expiration date, but Robert Kraft has noted how many successful business men have been atop their field into the 80s. Belichick is 66. So long as Belichick and Brady are on the same team — even if they’re squabbling — they will find their way into the playoffs and, likely, into the Super Bowl.
It helps that they have stars like Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower. But Belichick and Brady have showed that while those players may be supremely talented, they can win with just about anybody.
For those worried about the departures of Belichick and Brady, the Patriots have a succession plan in place for Belichick with Josh McDaniels and Nick Caserio prepared to step up. As for replacing Brady, that gets more complicated. They don’t have anyone in-house. But Belichick has a knack for identifying and developing quarterback talent. For now, they don’t have to worry about replacing Brady. For now, they can worry about how they’re going to win their third Super Bowl in five years.
2. Boston Celtics
The Celtics were a Game 7 collapse away from making it to the NBA Finals. You know what would have helped? Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. What else might have helped? Daniel Theis.
Now that LeBron James is out of the East, the Philadelphia 76ers are the only team equipped to beat the Celtics in the long-term. But Boston just crushed Philly, 4-1, in the playoffs. The Celtics’ roster is simply better than the 76ers’.
Sure, Irving’s future with the Celtics is beginning to get complicated. However, there’s trust that Danny Ainge will figure out how to recoup value out of Irving, if he does intend to leave. Then even if he departs, the Celtics have a young core of players in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who are on the verge of stardom. Hayward should be around for the foreseeable future. Other stars will come. The Celtics are also equipped with a number of conditional picks, which could produce another young star.
What’s more, Brad Stevens seems to spin yarn into gold when it comes to both young prospects (see: Terry Rozier) and veteran acquisitions (see: Isaiah Thomas). Stevens had, by far, the best season of his coaching career in 2017-18. He’s surely got his best work ahead of him with the team set up to win now and in the future.
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3. Boston Red Sox
They’re atop the most competitive division in baseball with a 3.5-game lead over the New York Yankees, who may be the second best team in baseball behind the Red Sox.
Dave Dombrowski may have stripped down the farm system to its bones while acquiring players like Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz and Carson Smith. Dombrowski has also created a bloated salary by signing players like David Price and J.D. Martinez.
But when watching the Sox, what’s not to like? Even Dombrowski’s most recent acquisition, Steven Pearce, has been a great addition to the lineup, even if he’s a one-year rental. With Pearce, their lineup is nasty with Martinez, Mookie Betts and Andrew Bennintendi leading the charge. Their rotation is rock solid with Sale, Price and Rick Porcello.
There are nits to pick: a shallow bullpen and a horrific batter in Jackie Bradley Jr. They’re facing difficult contract situations with Xander Bogaerts and Betts. But they should be able to retain Betts or both player.
The future is bright at Fenway Park.
4. Boston Bruins
Speaking of the future, how did the Bruins get so good so quickly?
The young group in Boston was not supposed to emerge until at least next season, and yet they looked like the best team in the NHL as the regular season wound down. The postseason got hairy, as the Bruins’ magic and energy dissipated in an environment that requires experience and veteran savvy. But behind Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and the other veteran leaders, the Bruins made a legitimate run before getting stopped by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Hockey’s wild postseason is so opposite the NBA postseason (which has been shockingly predictable). But it’s not unreasonable to think the Bruins, who will be equipped with the same core in 2018, can make another run deep into the playoffs. With another year under the belts of their young and budding stars (see: Charlie McCoy, David Pastrnak, Ryan Donato), they could even survive their way into the Stanley Cup Finals.
5. College sports
Boston’s college sports prowess rests largely upon its college hockey teams. The most recent poll had Providence, Boston University, Northeastern, Boston College and Harvard ranked in the top 20 teams. It’s absurd for one city (OK, Providence doesn’t count) to have so much talent in one sport.
Imagine Los Angeles boasting four of the nation’s top 20 football teams. Mind-bending.
Interestingly, Boston College’s profoundly bad basketball team has been long a point of discussion both locally and nationally. Because they are so far from being championship contenders, they make Boston College sports relevant on a national level. Remember when a player sat crying at the podium?
Boston College football is considered by some to be a dark horse in the ACC, and may start the season in the top 25, due in large part to sophomore running back A.J. Dillon. However, they’re not going to be contenders for a national championship. They’re also not likely to be in the top 25 for long.
Boston has strong college sports teams — they just don’t have a dominant football program. That said, their four pro sports teams, which are all legit title contenders, make up for what the city is lacking in college.