Four major sports. Seventeen years. Ten championships. Face it; after the Patriots won the Super Bowl Sunday night, Boston is Title Town USA. It’s never been done before, not even in New York, where they have two of every pro sports team to our one.
How do we do it, you may ask if you’re sitting in some loser burg like New York or Los Angeles or Miami, all of which dwarf Boston in size, but which produce championships about as often a Halley’s Comet comes around. It’s complex, subtle, nuanced–a constellation of things as one of our many local professors might say. Here’s a checklist to help you add the right ingredients to your local sports goulash in the hope that you too can achieve the state of smug satisfaction that Boston sports fans enjoy, on average, every year and seven-tenths. With a record like that, some fans never even leave the championship parade route–why give up a prime viewing spot when there’s another just around the corner?
Is it something in the water? Heck yeah, as Napoleon Dynamite might say. Boston is famous for its “Dirty Water,” the pre-cleanup Charles River that was honored in the song of that name by The Standells, a rock group from–Los Angeles.
The Standells: Most famous Boston rock group ever to come out of Los Angeles.
But the Charles isn’t the dirtiest river in Boston–not by a long shot. There’s the Muddy River that runs through town near Fenway Park. Its waters are loaded with nutrients and minerals from the many shopping carts that challenge sportfishermen from around the world!
A river so dirty you have to rake it.
It’s the food. This is also a possibility. An emigre to the region, I stood and watched a native prepare a “New England clam bake” on the beach many years ago. What, I asked him, were the rocks for that he was throwing into the pit? “We eat them,” he said. I figured he was joking, but I had a hot dog anyway. Several years later his claim was substantiated when I saw a sign outside a “packy” (local slang for a liquor store) that said “Fresh Native New England Rocks.”
“Let’s put sand in our food!”
Respect for our opponents. Unlike other towns where “trash talk” motivates opposing teams to excel, here in Boston we maintain a reserved and courteous attitude towards our athletic adversaries, with minor exceptions such as Larry Bird, Ted Williams, Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, Derek Sanderson, etc., et alia. For example, when New York Jets’ coach Rex Ryan’s depraved and disgusting foot fetish became public in 2011, residents of the six-state New England area were warned not to mention it by emergency broadcast, aerial leaflet drops and the Goodyear blimp. When Patriots’ receiver Wes Welker inadvertently alluded to Ryan’s twisted attraction to his wife’s feet eleven times in a press conference, he was reprimanded and promptly traded. There is no room here for that sort of disrespectful talk about the moral failings of a fat, overrated blowhard such as Ryan.
“Attention New England residents–do NOT mention Rex Ryan’s perverted foot fetish, okay?”
It’s the attitude. The former stereotype was that Bostonians were cold, condescending patricians, but a decade of movies by MattDamonBenAffleckMarkWahlberg should have disabused you of this notion. Instead, the region is full of warm-hearted, abrasive and violent proles–a must for defense and special teams.
“So then this customer sez to me he sez, can I get some ketchup. So I explained to him ‘When I bleepin’ get around to it.’”
The point is that a certain toughness and swaggering attitude–what former Boston Herald columnist George Frazier called duende–is considered essential here. At Durgin Park, one of Boston’s oldest restaurants, the waitresses are known for their rudeness, for example. Where a server in New York might approach a table having difficulty deciding on entrees with suggestions, a Durgin Park waitress will say “C’mon–I haven’t got all night.” For some reason this business model hasn’t caught on in the dining industry generally.
We instill this same bristling prickliness in our children the way the mothers of Sparta, according to Plutarch, would instruct their sons to return from battle “with your shield, or on it”–that is, not to drop it and run.
And so it is that a Patriots mom will hand her son a $5 bill and, as she bids him good-bye on his way to the refreshment stand, will look him in the eye without tears and say–“Return with your grape-flavored Slushee in your souvenir LeGarrette Blount cup, or on you.”