Malcolm Butler's interception to win Super Bowl XLIX was the single greatest play in the history of Boston sports.
There. I've said it. No turning back now.
This question has come up quite a bit over the past few days as we all continue to bask in the afterglow of yet another duckboat parade through the streets of Boston: where does that pick rank on the all-time list of great Boston sports moments? No matter how you feel about Boston or Boston sports in general, there is no denying that Beantown is one of the greatest sports cities in the country, and a city that treats its professional athletes like gods. And given the string of success the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins have had over the past few years, it's easy to overlook just how many unbelievable plays that this city has experienced throughout it's treasured history. It seems that almost every season, there is a play or two across the four major sports that will forever be discussed as the single greatest play or series anyone has ever seen. Dave Roberts stealing 2nd in the 2004 ALCS. David Ortiz's postseason grand slam. Curt Schilling and his bloody sock. Adam Vinatieri's 48 yard FG to win the Super Bowl against the Rams. Carlton Fisk's walk-off home run. Horton's game 7 OT goal against Montreal. Larry Bird's epic steal vs. the Pistons. Bobby Orr and his legendary goal and celebration. Doug Flutie's Hail Mary. And that's just a few of the plays that will go down in Boston sports lore. I could keep going all day.
But one thing makes Butler's interception better than all the rest. One thing elevates him above everything I just mentioned and more. As great as all those plays were, and as legendary as the players who delivered them have become, there remains one constant that is exclusive only to Butler:
Not only was his interception an amazing defensive play, but it also, in one singular moment, won his team a Super Bowl, exorcised a plethora of playoff demons for an entire region of the country, and cemented a quarterback and coach as the greatest to ever be associated with their particular sport.
No other play has meant so much to so many. None of the plays I just mentioned directly won a championship for it's respective team. You can make the case that Vinatieri's field goal and Orr's score won the game for their squads, but if Vinatieri had missed, the teams simply go into OT. Similarly, if Orr had missed, it was only Game 4. There would have been more chances for the Bruins to seal it. Flutie's play was amazing, but it was college, and it was also just as much a fluke as it was a feat of athleticism. But had Butler not made that play, had he not caught that pass, had he not perfectly diagnosed the offensive scheme and delivered with aplomb, the Seahawks win that game. It's very difficult to argue otherwise. And because of that, in this idiot's opinion at least, Malcolm Butler now stands alone as the athlete who made the single greatest play, on the single greatest stage, to bring home the single greatest trophy to the single greatest city in the country.
Ultimately, it's a debate that will never truly be settled, much like Ginger or Mary Ann, CJ or Summer, and deep dish or thin crust. At the end of the day it's all about what sport you consider your first love, and nobody will ever convince you otherwise. If the Sox are your greatest passion, you'll likely disagree with everything I just said. If you're a diehard Bruins fan, you'll probably tear me a new one for not mentioning Tim Thomas at all in this post. But if you take all of your fanaticism away and look at not only the play, but the impact it had on the sports landscape in general, there's only one man deserving of the nod.
And we were all there to witness it. History in the making. Boston Sports in all its glory. Thank you, Malcolm.