Last October, while I was in California on vacation, I was going through a crisis of faith, as many believers occasionally do. Maybe it was all that time I spent debating the atheists, but for whatever reason, I began to question my own beliefs. And so, on a chilly October night, while I was standing on a beach contemplating the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean, I prayed, like many millions of believers before me. I asked God to give me a sign, a small sign, any sign at all, that He exists.
A few nights later, the Red Sox rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the American League Championship series to beat the Cleveland Indians, and went on to steamroll the Colorodo Rockies and win their second World Series in four years. Later, the New England Patriots ran off a perfect, first-in-history, 16-0 perfect season. Two Red Sox rookie pitchers have thrown no-hitters, one in just his second major league start, and another after battling back from cancer. And last night, after 22 years in the wilderness, the Boston Celtics won their 17th NBA Championship.
God is not only going out of his way to show me He exists, but He is clearly revealing himself to be a big Boston fan.
“But wait a minute”, you object, “the Patriots LOST the Super Bowl, remember? Where was your God then?”
Like all men of faith, I never let an inconvenient fact get in the way of my dearly held beliefs. To my mind, the fact that they lost simply validates the theology of Manichaeism.
“Hold on, not so fast”, you say. “What about the Bruins? They haven’t won anything in years! What’s your God doing for them?”
Oh, that’s easy, I scoff, secure in my faith: God, like all sentient beings with an IQ higher than the room temperature, doesn’t give a shit about hockey.
Finally you trot out your last, and seemingly most devastating argument: “Surely Lakers fans were praying for their team. Wasn’t God listening to them?”
The True Believer will already know the answer to this question:
Ok, moving off this rather dubious metaphysical plane, I realize it may be difficult for some to realize just how big this is for the Boston sports fan. Bostonians, in all frankness, have suffered from a collective inferiority complex for a long, long time. The Patriots (or as they were formerly known, the Patsies) were, for years, the doormats of the NFL.
The Red Sox were like that girl in college who teased the hell out of you, but always ultimately left you high and dry. The Sox always played second fiddle to the New York Yankees. New York got Joe DiMaggio, Boston got Dom DiMaggio. New York got Babe Ruth. Boston got “No, No, Nanette”. The Yankees won 26 World Series. The Red Sox won two pennants.
And on top of all that, New York and L. A. are just bigger, glitzier, and occupy a more prominent place on the world stage. The really, really rich and famous don’t live in Boston. They live in New York or L. A.
But the one thing we Bostonians always had was the Celtics. “Celtics Pride” translated into Boston Pride. They perennially gave us a reason to hold our heads up. In 13 seasons between 1957 and 1969, the Celtics won the NBA Championship an astounding 11 times, including a mind boggling 8 consecutive championships between 1959 and 1966. They beat the Lakers in the finals seven times (eight, if you count the 1959 finals when the Lakers were still in Minneapolis). It was an unparalleled record of success that even the Yankees couldn’t match. No matter how bad the Patsies were, no matter how many times the Red Sox disappointed us, no matter how out of control our collective inferiority complex got, we always had the Celtics.
The Celtics remained a force to be reckoned with and a source of regional pride throughout the ’70’s and ’80’s, winning four more championships, including one more over the Lakers. But after their 1986 Championship over the Houston Rockets, the famous Celtics “luck of the Irish” began to run out.
The first ominous sign that the Leprechaun had deserted them was the unexpected death of their first round draft pick, Len Bias. Touted as the successor to Larry Bird, he died of a cocaine induced heart attack, ironically while at a party celebrating his being drafted by the Celtics.
What followed from then on were years in which the Celtics occasionally enjoyed periods of mediocrity, but more often just plain stunk. The glory years of the past seemed like the stuff of mythology. The Celtics were just one more basketball team, nothing special.
But today, that’s all changed. Boston is now home to arguably the best baseball, football, and basketball teams in the world. Boston is second best to no one. Sometimes God does answer prayers.
Sometimes He even says “yes”.