I love the Patriots. They take precedence over all other New England teams for me. However, I can still respect and understand how people can fall in love with the other teams. The Red Sox have their history and, while I struggle to watch baseball on television, I can appreciate the joy associated with sitting in the stands at Fenway. The Celtics are basketball royalty and are considered one of the greatest franchises of all time- I can definitely see why people love watching them play. The Patriots, the Red Sox, and the Celtics have all brought back championships to Boston and they will always be the hometown favorites. However, there's another team that's been making a comeback for a couple of years- a team that embodies everything Patriots' fans love about sports.
The Bruins have been the "little brother" team of Boston for the past few decades- and definitely the whole time I've been alive. They've always been in the shadow of the Red Sox and the Patriots stepped into the spotlight at the turn of the century. Even the Celtics were able to reclaim some of their former glory in recent years. The Bruins have always been that, "oh, nothing else is on TV" team. They were perfectly mediocre. They made a couple post season runs and they burnt out a couple regular seasons. They had no real player that a New England fan could identify with as a true Boston sports hero.
The Patriots had Tedy Bruschi. Tom Brady. Troy Brown. Players that brought their lunch to work every day and made the Patriots the loveable underdogs. The Celtics had Paul Pierce- the Truth- the franchise player who, despite his threats to leave, helped bring the championship back home. The Red Sox had "The Idiots", and had a scrappy team that overcame the hated Yankees to break the curse.
Those were teams and players that everyone could relate to as a fan. The Bruins? They had Jumbo Joe Thornton who, like Pierce, was unhappy with the direction the franchise was heading. However, unlike Piece, Thornton made his way off the team and into San Jose. The Bruins lacked a real cast of players that we could fall in love with as we decided, "Hey, let's watch the Bruins."
In the past couple years, the Bruins have quietly picked up some fan favorites- Big Zdeno Chara, the captain defenseman. Tim Thomas, while not necessarily new, has developed into the best goalie in the league. Meat and Potatoes and Poutine Milan Lucic, the throwback forward who brings back memories of the Bruins' glory days. Recent pick-ups in young Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton have brought inspiration and passion to the Bruins' squad.
The Bruins were losing the series 2-0 before their homestand this past week. In Game 3, a Vancouver Canuck took out Horton and ended his season with a concussion. After that hit, the Bruins have outscored the Canucks 12-1 and are now two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup finals. The team has rallied Horton's injury and has given the city of Boston a reason to watch the team try and win the championship.
The Patriots need to find that identity. They're a young team and they are still in a period of regrowth. The team has faltered in the playoffs of late and they seem to have gone down without a fight. Coach Bill Belichick took the time to support the Bruins in the playoffs- hopefully he can bring back that fight to the Patriots. The team needs to reinvent itself and become the team that New England fans love.
I see this being the year. This will be the year that the Patriots bring back the spark. The young players will step up as leaders on the team and they will not back down without a fight. Not in the AFC East. Not in the playoffs. This Patriots team will be back with an identity that everyone can support- one that everyone can rally behind. It might not be the exciting 2007 offense. It might not be the sturdy 2004 defense. Whatever happens, this Patriots team will be a team of its own.
Hopefully, there will be a season. Hopefully, this team will have the chance to show their fire. Hopefully, because this Patriots team will be a team to watch.