As the calendar year of 2013 comes to a close, it's time to take a look back on the year in terms of Boston sports. 2013, like most years, was an emotional year filled with triumph, yet permeated with heartbreak as well. Typical, right?
The Patriots were in the AFC Championship game again, yet came up just short in a loss to the eventual Super Bowl champs. After losing the beloved Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead, along with releasing Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez being convicted of first-degree murder during the offseason, the current Brady & Belichick led team is depleted by injuries but just clinched the AFC East for the 10th time in 11 years and clings to the #2 seed and a first round bye. While it doesn't seem likely, who knows what the Golden Boy himself, Tom Brady, can do during the playoffs going forward?
The Celtics made a quick exit during the first round of the NBA playoffs versus the Knicks in April to end their 2012-2013 campaign, and for the third year straight, questions remained whether or not Danny Ainge would keep the band that brought home the 2008 title together for one last run. And as abruptly as their season ended, Doc Rivers bolted to Los Angeles and Ainge shipped all-time Celtics greats Paul Pierce & Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn in exchange for a plethora of draft picks, seemingly putting the team in rebuilding mode for years to come. Don't look now, but the C's are currently in contention for a playoff spot and just one game back of Toronto in the Atlantic division (don't get too excited, the East is painfully bad this season).
Perhaps the most heartbreaking of them all, the Bruins found themselves in the Stanley Cup Final for the 2nd time in 3 years against the Chicago Blackhawks. 1:17 away from forcing a Game 7, the Bruins gave up 2 goals faster than you can read this paragraph to lose the Stanley Cup Final 3-2. Memories of a Dave Bolland tip-in off of a Johnny Oduya slapshot that got past Tuukka Rask will be stained in the minds of B's fans forever. However, after shipping Tyler Seguin out of town and acquiring Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla, the Bruins are currently #1 in the Eastern Conference and a probable Stanley Cup favorite leading into the postseason.
Finally, the Boston Red Sox were crowned World Series Champions! After a miserable 2012 campaign, the Sox were not even in the discussion for the playoffs during Spring Training. However, right before our eyes, a cast of bearded brothers came together unlike any other to deliver one of the most special seasons (and teams) Boston has ever seen. A postseason full of magical moments, including David Ortiz's season-saving grand slam, capped off one of the most improbable and exciting playoff runs in recent memory. The Red Sox put the city of Boston on their back, and for the first time since 1918, celebrated winning it all in front of their own fans at Fenway Park.
2013 was a memorable year without question. Now, its time to hand out some awards.
Best Team- Boston Red Sox
This was an easy and obvious choice. The Red Sox were the only team from the 617 to win a championship, and without a doubt did it in a way that fans wont ever forget. As said before, without David Ortiz' game-tying grand slam in the 8th inning of Game 2 of the ALCS, we might not even be talking about the Sox as champions. Shane Victorino also delivered a cold-blooded grand slam in Game 6 of that series to send Boston to the World Series. This team delivered clutch hit after clutch hit, rallied behind a city torn to pieces from the Boston Marathon bombings and gave Boston a sense of hope. The mantra "Get Beard", coined by the grizzly-faced Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli blended team chemistry together and drew comparisons to the "Idiots" of 2004. Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Koji Uehara were dominant and John Lackey had a comeback season. Baseball's #1 offense, fueled by the likes of Pedroia, Ellsbury, Ortiz, Napoli, Victorino and others was lethal all year. Worst to first. Cheers to you, Red Sox. Honorable Mention- Boston Bruins
Best Player- Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Tom Terrific is doing it again. A 2012 season in which he produced 4,827 yards, 34 TD's and just 8 interceptions led his team to the AFC Championship game for the seventh time. Although Brady and the Pats came up short in that game, Brady himself has been well, Brady-like since then. After starting the season missing 4 of his top 5 passing targets from the previous season, Tom has the Patriots at #2 in the AFC with an 11-4 record. While 2013 has been somewhat of a down year for Brady statistically, his weapons aren't the same. Brady is working with two rookies in Dobson & Thompkins, a running back in Vereen, a poor man's Wes Welker in Amendola & Edelman, and seemingly no-name tight ends (with Gronkowski out for the season) in Hoomanawanui and Mulligan. Yet, this guy still has over 4,000 passing yards and 23 touchdowns. Without Tom Brady, the New England Patriots might be 4-11, not 11-4. Over the last 7 games, Brady has been on an absolute tear, averaging over 342 YPG with 15 touchdowns. Don't forget about Brady's 5 game-winning drives and improbable comebacks this season, either. As the weather gets colder, Tom Brady heats up. Watch out, NFL. Honorable Mention- Koji Uehara
Best Coach/Manager- John Farrell, Boston Red Sox
After being hired as the successor to the obnoxious and dislikable Bobby Valentine, John Farrell was hired to change the culture in Boston. Coming off two dismal seasons in Toronto, many wondered if Farrell was the right man for the job. He entered the year taking over a 69-93 team filled with a few good ballplayers and lots of "chemistry guys". One of the most well-respected managers in the league, Farrell commanded a Boston clubhouse full of characters and produced a team with extraordinary chemistry and a winning formula. All Farrell did was take a team from worst to first and win the World Series in his first year as skipper. No big deal. Talk about a turn-around. Honorable Mention- Bill Belichick
Best Moment- Red Sox championship parade stopped at Boston Marathon finish line, 617 "Boston Strong" jersey hung over World Series Trophy
In one of the most bone-chilling moments in recent memory, the Red Sox championship parade came to a halt at the finish line of the Boston Marathon where the bombings took place in April. Jonny Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia emerged from their respective duck boats holding "Boston Strong 617" jerseys, and the World Series trophy was placed at the finish line. The jerseys were hung on the trophy, chants of "Boston Strong" broke out, and God Bless America was sung. In the span of five minutes, it was as if a city once torn to pieces seemed to be put back together like a puzzle; remembering the four that died, honoring the estimated 264 that were injured, and thanking the hundreds of heroes and first-responders all at once. It truly was a perfect moment that defined the year and won't ever be forgotten. Honorable Mention: David Ortiz pregame speech during ceremony to honor marathon victims
Best Play- David Ortiz game-tying grand slam, Game 6 ALCS
Down in the series 1-0. Down in the game 5-1. Four outs away from going back to Detroit down 0-2. Bases loaded. First pitch. GRAND SLAM! David Ortiz belted a game-tying and season-saving grand slam off Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit into the Red Sox bullpen to tie the game 5-5, sending Torii Hunter flipping over the wall, bullpen cop Steve Horgan's arms into the air, and Fenway Park into an absolute frenzy. One inning later, Jarrod Saltalamacchia delivered a walk-off hit to score Jonny Gomes that tied the series 1-1. The rest is history. Honorable Mention- Shane Victorino's ALCS Game 6 grand slam
Best Game- Patriots rally from down 24-0 to stun Broncos in overtime
In a matchup of two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, the Patriots trailed the Broncos 24-0 at halftime after losing three fumbles and gaining just 142 yards of offense. With the way New England was playing, there was almost no hope of mounting a comeback. And right before our eyes, Tom Brady and the Pats stormed out of the gates in the second half and scored 31 unanswered points to take the lead 31-24. A clutch drive by Peyton Manning with 3 minutes left tied the game at 31 and forced overtime. After Bill Belichick elected to defer receiving the ball after the coin toss and going with the wind, a defensive battle in the overtime period led to a Patriots punt with 3:09 to play. A miscue by none other than former Patriot Wes Welker forced the ball to hit Broncos cornerback Tony Carter and was then recovered by the Patriots Nate Ebner on the 13-yard line. A 31-yard game-winning field goal by Stephen Gostkowski went through the uprights and capped off an astonishing comeback by Brady and New England. Unreal. Honorable Mention: World Series clinching Game 6 win by Red Sox
Best Comeback- Bruins come back from down 4-1 in Game 7 vs Maple Leafs, win 5-4 in OT
It was one of the most unbelievable comebacks in NHL history without question. In the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a 3-3 series tie between Boston and Toronto set up a Game 7 in the TD Garden to decide the series. The Bruins got off to a fast start, going up 1-0 a little over 5 minutes into the game, but ended up finding themselves down 4-1 with 11 minutes to play and down 4-2 with about 1:30 left. The season seemed all but over. Suddenly, a miracle struck. After a Milan Lucic goal with 1:22 on the clock gave the B's hope, none other than Patrice Bergeron tied the game with 50 seconds left to send it into overtime. 2 goals, 32 seconds. Tie game, just like that. Bergeron then went on to win the game in OT for Boston and advance them to the second round. Miraculous. Honorable Mention- Patriots comeback from down 24-0 to Denver to win 34-31 in overtime
Most Heartbreaking Game- Bruins give up 2 goals in 17 seconds, lose Stanley Cup Final Game 6
It all happened so fast. With the Bruins leading with about 1:30 to go in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, the TD Garden was rocking. If the Bruins held on, there would be a winner-take-all Game 7 in Boston for hockey's Holy Grail. What could go wrong? A Brian Bickell goal that tied the game with 1:16 left likely prepared the B's and their fans for a nail-biting overtime period, right? Wrong. Before fans could even digest what just happened, Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds later to win the Stanley Cup for the Blackhawks and end the Bruins season. All in the blink of an eye. Ouch. Honorable Mention- Patriots lose AFC Championship game at home to rival Ravens, 28-13
Most Forgettable Moment- Aaron Hernandez convicted of murder, released by Patriots
The most shocking and forgettable news of 2013 without a doubt, the former Patriots star tight end was convicted for the murder of Odin Lloyd on August 22. News swirled about Hernandez being a possible suspect in mid-June, and the Patriots released Hernandez on June 26 after he was arrested and charged at his North Attleboro home. In his three seasons as a Patriot, Hernandez recorded 175 receptions for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns, forming a deadly combination with other tight end Rob Gronkowski. Hernandez is also currently being investigated by police in connection to other murders in Florida and Massachusetts. It's safe to say the Patriots could have used him this season. Honorable Mention- Jacoby Ellsbury leaves Red Sox to sign 7-year deal with Yankees / Wes Welker signs with Broncos
Most Unforgettable Moment- Boston Marathon bombings kills 3, injures estimated 264
April 15, 2013. Patriots Day in New England, and the 117th running of the world-famous Boston Marathon. At approximately 2:49 PM, two pressure-cooker bombs were set off by brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev at the finish line on Boylston street, killing 3 and injuries an estimated 264 others. Immediate chaos ensued, and the city was torn to pieces. An unprecedented manhunt to find the ones responsible for the bombs was in full force by the FBI and the Boston Police Department four days later on April 19. Later that night, the manhunt was concluded when Tsarnaev was found hiding in a boat in the backyard of a Watertown home and was promptly captured and taken into custody. While justice was served, the Boston Marathon bombings served as a tragic event that shook the city and changed lives forever. Boston sports teams rallied behind the city and the slogan "Boston Strong". To this day, over $70 million has been raised by the One Fund Boston charity in support of marathon bombing victims and families.
Boston Sportsman of the Year- David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Arguably the most iconic sports figure in Boston during the past decade, Big Papi himself did not disappoint in 2013. Entering the season with a heel injury and missing the first 15 games of the season, Ortiz put the Red Sox on his back from the middle of April through October. Ortiz finished the regular season hitting .309 with 30 HR and 103 RBI's. His grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS saved the Red Sox season, and he went on to carry the Red Sox to a championship by hitting an unconscious .688 in the World Series. Without David Ortiz, there is no championship banner hanging outside Fenway Park on Yawkey Way. However, Ortiz's place in Boston sports lore goes way beyond the stat sheet.
After delivering the quote of the year during a speech to fans at Fenway Park on a day when Boston Marathon bombings victims and heroes were honored, the impact that Big Papi had on the city of Boston after the tragedy that struck on April 15 was insurmountable and cannot be put into words. The leadership Ortiz displayed, pulling his team together for a mid-game pep talk during Game 4 of the World Series for example, was exemplary of the entire season. His leadership and care for the people around him shines through his ear-to-ear smile. The David Ortiz Children's fund has raised over $1.5 million to help provide critical health care for children in New England and the Dominican Republic. Hell, the man even has a pediatric emergency examining room in the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children named after him. Ortiz is an idol, a hero, an icon; largely in part because of his magnanimity. David Ortiz is Boston. The words he famously spoke from the heart on April 20 will never be forgotten, and truly show how much Ortiz genuinely cares about the city he plays for. "This is our f******g city. And nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay Strong!". In retrospect, most people would agree as well, "This is our bleeeeeping Papi." David Ortiz is without question Boston's Sportsman of the Year.
There you have it, Boston. That is a wrap on the 2013 sports scene. In a nutshell, it was the year of the Red Sox. Here's to another championship-filled year. Bring on 2014.
Rest In Peace: Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, Sean Collier. BOSTON STRONG 4.15.13 #NeverForget