10 Years Ago Today: The 2004 Red Sox Comeback Through More Mature Eyes

 

boston globe 2004

Ten years ago today the Boston Red Sox did the unthinkable when they completed the greatest playoff comeback in baseball history.

You may recall the details (and you’ll likely see lots of articles, Facebooks posts and Tweets about it today): The Yankees dominated the Red Sox in the first three games of the 2004 ALCS, all hope was lost once again for Boston fans, and then the Sox flipped the script and won four straight.

Ten years ago today the Red Sox won that stress-free game 7 at Yankee Stadium. The final score was 10-3, but it wasn’t even that close. (Did Terry Francona really insert Pedro Martinez into the game in the 7th inning or did I dream that?)

Ten years is a significant amount of time in any person’s life, but I’d argue the 10 years between being a 21-year-old and a 31-year-old probably involves more maturing than most 10-year chunks.

With that in mind, here are eight memories from that historic day of October 20th, 2004, and how the current 31-year-old me would react to those memories now.

  1. THEN: When the Red Sox dropped the first three games of the 2004 ALCS, I remember thinking, “Hey, at least I won’t have to go through the darkest of depressions like I did in 2003 when they lost in dramatic fashion in game 7 at Yankee Stadium. At least this year will be like ripping a band-aid off.” NOW: Of course I have the perspective of having witnessed that ’04 team’s comeback, but I’ve also seen the 2009-10 Boston Bruins and 2013-14 San Jose Sharks choke away 3-0 playoff series leads. I’ve also seen the Red Sox comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the 2007 ALCS. At this point I’m pretty well-conditioned to never write off a team’s chances before a series is actually over.
  2. THEN: After the comeback was complete, I did what any boozed-up college kid would do: I marched down to Kenmore Square and began celebrating/rioting with all the other morons. In fact, I was one of a few dozen people who climbed on top of a city bus that was parked near Fenway and started screaming, cheering and stomping my feet. When the Police arrived, I was the third-to-last person to jump off the bus. The last guy that jumped off? The cops grabbed him, shoved him into the bus and started hitting him. I assume that was to teach the rest of us a lesson. NOW: I would either go to the closest bar with a couple friends and take a few celebratory shots, or I’d stay home and pop a bottle of champagne and watch on TV & Twitter for all the idiots rioting and setting things on fire.
  3. THEN: Even though the Red Sox were renowned for blowing it in the playoffs and crushing their fans, there was never any sense on this night that we were celebrating too soon. Sure, the Cardinals still stood in the way of the first World Series in 86 years, but this was a done deal. There was no way they were getting that close to history, in such a once-in-a-lifetime way and not completing the task. NOW: I’ve lived through 18-1. The Patriots’ fourth Super Bowl—Tom Brady’s fourth Super Bowl—would have been historic, and it was going to happen in a once-in-a-lifetime way. But we all know how that worked out so I would never consider anything in sports a done deal ever again.
  4. THEN: The 2004 ALCS served a secondary purpose for me. There was a girl who I was trying to date back then (technically I was trying to steal her from her boyfriend at the time). She happened to be at my apartment during game 4 of the ALCS. From that point on, I convinced her she had to watch the rest of the playoffs at my apartment for good luck. NOW: HA! I apologize to my fiancee if this sounds bad (by the way, she is not the girl from the 2004 ALCS). I would much rather watch an historic Boston sports moment with only my male Boston friends. I find that most of the women who are regulars in my life do not care one bit about sports. If a few of them were present during a big game, they would likely be chatting about weddings, babies and how Charlie Hunnam should have played the main guy in the 50 Shades of Grey movie instead of the actor who actually got the part.
  5. THEN: The Red Sox getting to the World Series meant my brothers would be joining me in Boston for a few days to take in all the action. One was coming from New Hampshire and the other from San Francisco. It was very important to me back then to witness this history with my two best friends and favorite sports-watching partners. NOW: Sure, the feelings may still be the same (this is part of the reason I book a ticket to San Francisco each year for the Super Bowl…hoping, waiting for the three of us to finally celebrate a Patriots Title together), but I would never admit to them that the quality time is important to me. If anything, we’re at a stage where we try to make the others feel like they’re not important to us. I told you the 31-year-old version of me was more mature.
  6. THEN: The 2004 ALCS was when I first started thinking about someday writing a book to commemorate Boston sports during my four years of college. After all, I was there for three Patriots Super Bowls, one Red Sox World Series and three Boston University Beanpot Championships (if you’re into that sort of thing). NOW: I can barely be bothered to write one meaningful blog post per week, let alone a full book. Also, Boston teams just refuse to stop winning Championships so I might be dead by the time there’s enough of a break in the action to actually write the book.
  7. THEN: Two days after the game 7 win in Yankee Stadium, I saw Dave Roberts at a bar in Boston. I noted what kind of beer he was drinking. Then I went to the bar and ordered that same drink. I stared at him until I saw him take the last sip of that Amstel Light, and then I sprinted over and handed him the fresh one and said, “Thanks for the steal.” NOW: Yep. Still pretty obsessed with any celebrity related to sports. Down here in LA, my fiancee will often try to get me to follow around celebrities when we see them in public. I usually decline because they’re meaningless people like Gwyneth Paltrow or Steve Carrell. But I have been known to stare at Bill Simmons for three straight hours when I see him at a Kings game. Not much has changed in this regard.
  8. THEN: For a 21-year-old who didn’t have a lot of responsibility at the time, this Red Sox Championship was the most important thing that had ever happened to me. NOW: Well…once again, not much has changed.

 

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Wrapping Up A Great Stanley Cup Final (And Some Reflection on The Overall Boston Sports Landscape)

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The immediate aftermath of the Bruins’ game 6 giveaway to the Blackhawks was so strange. I had no urges to set all my Boston sports gear on fire. There were no chairs or couches kicked across the living room. And I barely even thought about lining up four shot glasses to try to erase the painful memories.

Of course I thought about the missed opportunity. And I was definitely kicking myself for daydreaming earlier on Monday about eight Boston Championships over 11 years. But there was a weird sense of being able to immediately step back and appreciate an incredible Stanley Cup Final, and an even more impressive Boston Bruins season.

This might be an unpopular thought in Boston, but it sort of feels like a gut-wrenching loss in the Championship round is a right of passage for this current installment of Boston athletes and their fans. We’ve had three Patriots Super Bowl victories, but also those two unthinkable losses to the New York Giants. We got Celtics banner #17 when the new Big Three was assembled, but no one’s forgotten how close they were to #18 when they fell to the Lakers in game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. And while the Red Sox haven’t lost in the World Series during this extended run of Boston sports success, their game 7 losses in the 2003 and 2008 ALCS belong in the same miserable category.

So now it’s the Bruins turn.

Are you one of those people who can filter out the missed chances when thinking back on this ridiculous run that started in February 2002? Or are you going to remember David Tyree and Mario Manningham’s catches, Ron Artest’s three-pointer, and Aaron Boone’s home run more than anything? (You’re right, no one will ever forget Boone’s home run. That moment is not erasable. And no, I would never link to that clip in a blog post)

Maybe part of the reason this Bruins loss will bring a shorter grieving period is because it was never about anything more than this particular Stanley Cup Championship. It wasn’t about anyone’s legacy or needing another banner to win an argument over another city’s fan base. Every time the Patriots’ season ends short of a Super Bowl Title now, we can’t help but think of Brady and Belichick needing just one more to solidify their places atop the all-time quarterback and coaching ranks, respectively. And another Larry O’Brien trophy for the Celtics is always needed to stay ahead of the Lakers.

LeBron James got all of two days to enjoy his latest NBA Championship before people were talking about how he needs a few more if there’s ever going to be a real comparison to Michael Jordan.

In hockey they don’t talk like that. Think about everything you’ve read and heard about the Bruins and Blackhawks over the past 10 days. It was all about the hockey. There were no sideshows. No talking about how badly one star needs to get the monkey off his back. There was no Spygate, no PEDs talk, no flopping or referee conspiracies, and no former or current murder suspects on either team. Every bit of analysis concerned matchups on the ice or strategic line-shuffling by the coaches.

Am I the only one who finds that refreshing?

Even if I kind of do hope that a report surfaces this summer saying the entire Chicago team was more doped up than Lance Armstrong before a leisurely ride through the Alps.

A few more notes before I put an amazing hockey season in the rearview mirror:

  • It took me about two hours last night to go from stewing over the disappointment to throwing myself into fantasy football analysis. Just like an athlete turning the page to focus on the next game, we can’t harp on this too long or else we’ll be missing out on the next sports priority.
  • We’re spoiled as Boston fans. We get to turn our attention to a surprising 1st place baseball team and a perennially contending football team (Aaron Hernandez drama notwithstanding).
  • Since you may not have taken a step back recently to do the math on this 11 year run, I did it for you. Boston teams have won seven Championships in that time (3 Patriots, 2 Red Sox, 1 Celtics, 1 Bruins). Those teams have also combined for four Championship round losses and six more Conference Finals round losses. That means 17 times in just over a decade our teams have been on the doorstep of winning it all (or a step away from the doorstep).
  • The odds are against that kind of success happening again. I hope you were paying attention.
  • Looking on the bright side of this Bruins letdown…we can all start acting like normally-functioning humans again. We can wash our lucky shirts (they were becoming as firm as cardboard due to all the dried up beer, pizza sauce and tears on them). We can shave our playoff beards (and some of us can even knock down our playoff afros). And we can cut our lucky playoff lawn (heard a rumor that fans in Chicago and Boston were letting the grass in their yards grow for good luck….so random)
  • People will naturally point to games 4 and 6 as missed opportunities, but don’t sleep on game 1. Remember, the Bruins took a 3-1 lead with just under 14 minutes left in the 3rd period. A win in game 1 means the Bruins would have taken a 3-0 series lead eventually if things played out the same otherwise.
  • Of course if things had really played out the same after that, we’d be talking about how the Bruins have to win game 7 on Wednesday to avoid the crazy choke job of blowing a 3-0 series lead.
  • This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt the need to congratulate the opponent and their fans after a Boston loss.

Just a great series that hopefully we’ll look back on fondly even though our team came out on the wrong end.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy a new Patriots hat so I have something to set on fire when Tom Brady falls short of Super Bowl #4 in about seven months.

Wake Up Boston: The Bruins Are The New Patriots & There’s Still Time to Jump on the Bandwagon

Being a diehard sports fan isn’t a skill or a talent. It’s an investment. For the most part it’s simply an investment of your time, but every now and then you’ve gotta dip into the wallet and make a financial investment to properly keep up with your team.

I live in LA, but I bleed Boston sports. Unfortunately for me, following my teams isn’t as easy as tuning the TV to NESN. We have to pay a ransom to watch Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics games out here. When I bought the Major League Baseball package last April, it was easily one of the worst investments in my life. That’s the risk I run every year when I ponder the benefit of sinking my money into one of the sports packages. The Red Sox were such a disaster last year that I was basically done watching them by August 1st. And you know what? I haven’t decided yet if I’m buying the MLB package for the 2013 season. It’s sad that Red Sox fans are even considering not forking over the money this year, but that’s how pessimistic we are about a franchise that’s been more drama than baseball over the past 18 months.

Buying the NHL package like I did four weeks ago is on the opposite end of the spectrum. There is little downside in investing in the Boston Bruins right now. I’d go so far as saying at this current moment in Boston sports, the Bruins are as sure of a bet as the Patriots.

Here’s my disclaimer before you continue reading: Any legitimate diehard Bruins fan can probably stop reading this article. I don’t think I’m going to tell you something you don’t already know. This is really for the fair weather fans who haven’t decided whether to jump all-in on the Bruins bandwagon. I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to hockey and basketball I am a bit of a bandwagonner. There’s only so much time in the day, and football and baseball have ruled my sports life for a long time. I realize the NHL just had its second work stoppage in eight years and hockey isn’t covered in the media as thoroughly as the other major sports, but that doesn’t take away from how incredible of a sport it truly is. And really if you’re a fair weather fan you should have been pretending to like the Bruins as far back as two Springs ago when they won the Title. Last year they rolled to a #2 seed in the East before losing to Washington in a classic seven-game series. So if you started backing them in 2011, I have no idea why you would have stepped off the bandwagon between then and now.

If you’re still having doubts, right now is your last chance. You can still get ahead of the laggards and the extreme casual fan curve and not look like a total fool after the Bruins win their second Stanley Cup of the decade (That’s not a guarantee that it’ll happen this year, but I’ll be stunned if it doesn’t happen soon).

It’s not an exaggeration to think these guys might be the “new Patriots” over the next five years. As you’ll see below, they may even be better-positioned for multiple title runs than the Patriots.

Here are some stats and tidbits that should help you understand why I’m pushing this so hard:

  • First of all, after Sunday’s 4-1 win at Florida, their record now sits at a sterling 11-2-2
  • By my count, 17 of the Bruins’ 20 regular players were a significant part of the 2010-11 Stanley Cup team. There really hasn’t been much turnover, so even if you were out on them last year, you can hop right back in without skipping a beat.
  • They have one player who’s the son of a Bruin legend. That would be Chris Bourque. How can you not root for the son of #77.
  • They’ve got a high 1st round draft pick from 2011 who looks like he’s going to be the stud they thought they were drafting. That would be Dougie Hamilton. He’s already a regular defenseman and he’s 19 years old.
  • They have their own version of Dustin Pedroia! Or is it Wes Welker? Or Rajon Rondo? Whatever it is, they have an undersized, not-much-to-look-at guy of their own. His name is Brad Marchand and he’s leading the team with nine goals.
  • They have 10 “key players” under the age of 30.
  • Their top seven point scorers so far this year are all under the age of 28. You really can get behind this team now and feel good about their chances over the next five years. They have a young cornerstone goalie, a young cornerstone defenseman, and several young cornerstone forwards.
  • Speaking of their goalie, his name is Tuuka Rask, and he’s actually not a new guy on the scene. This is his 6th year in the league and 4th playing meaningful minutes. In the 2009-10 season, he led the NHL in both goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.931). If not for Tim Thomas’s resurgence over the last couple years (which I’m absolutely not complaining about), Rask would be a household name along with the best goalies in the league.
  • It’s unfair to judge a hockey team purely on a traditional win-loss record because it’s somewhat irrelevant to the standings. For the uninitiated, here’s how it works: a team gets two points for a win (regulation or overtime) and one point for an overtime loss (whether they lose in the extra period or the shootout). So it’s much better to gauge a team on the number of points they’ve captured as a percentage of their total possible points (example: This current Bruins team has played 15 games. At most they could have 30 points. They currently have 24. That puts their “points captured” percentage at .800…Still with me?) By comparison, an .800 win percentage in baseball would have the Red Sox winning 130 games in a season. That same win rate for the Patriots would give them 13 victories in a 16-game schedule. If you want to argue that this 14-game sample isn’t sustainable, I totally agree. But over the last two-and-a-half seasons, the Bruins are playing at a .640 clip. Translating that number into baseball once again, the Red Sox would put up 104 wins, or just a handful more than Josh Beckett said they’d win in 2011. My apologies for nerding out in this paragraph, but hopefully you get my point. The Bruins are damn good, and it’s been that way for a while.
  • If fighting and physicality is more your game than scoring, the Bruins roll out Shawn Thornton, Lane MacDermid, and Milan Lucic on the regular. They are all badasses, trust me (hopefully you saw Lucic absolutely bury that Panthers player who hit him from behind on Sunday). And for pure comedic value, just watch a Bruins opponent (especially a rookie) get pissed off at Zdeno Chara. There’s nothing more entertaining to me than seeing a guy on the other team get a borderline cheapshot from Chara, quickly turnaround to confront the offender, and only then realize it’s the 6’9″ Bruins captain (aka the biggest player in NHL history).
  • The Bruins are tied for 5th in the league in fights per game. Just read some of the opposing players’ or coaches’ quotes after they play the Bruins. They regularly call it “the most intense game we’ve played all year” and comment on the “physical, crushing style” the B’s play. I promise you this all lends itself to even more entertainment.
  • Yeah the lockout sucked, but the Bruins’ season just began and already they only have 33 games left. Surely you can get on board with such a short season.
  • In March, the Bruins play 17 games and will have more than one day off in between games only once. So you can count on meaningful hockey every other day.
  • Hey, it’s not all sunshine and pixie dust for the Bruins. If there’s one knock on their “watchability,” it’s that their highest point scorer ranks 63rd among all NHL players. That’s pretty ridiculous. When you’re trying to make the case that Boston is one of the best and most enjoyable teams to watch in the league, that’s a damning argument against them. But remember those three Patriots Super Bowl winning teams? How they never really had just one guy standing out on the stat sheet? And that Celtics championship team in 2008, no one averaged more than 19 points per game? And even the Bruins title team two years ago didn’t have a guy ranked higher than 39th in the league in points. What I’m trying to say is, yeah it kinda sucks not to have a Crosby or a Stamkos or one of the Sedin Sisters to dazzle you every night, but last time I checked, regular season flash doesn’t translate to postseason success.
  • And then there’s the gigantic woolly mammoth in the room: the Bruins power play. We’re now into year four of all Bruins fans asking if they’re allowed to decline the power play rather than play with a man advantage. It’s that pathetic. But if they’re going to suck on one special teams unit, at least they are far-and-away the best in the league on the man disadvantage. So even the dark power play clouds have a nice silver lining for this team.

The point of all this? Fair weather fans in Boston have naturally gravitated towards the Patriots and Red Sox over the past 10 years, and for good reason. They’ve been the more consistent contenders in their sports. But the landscape has shifted, and the Bruins are ready to take the reigns for the foreseeable future.

Coping With the Latest Boston Sports Loss By Reminiscing About Past Disappointments, and Looking for Silver Linings!

As experienced as Boston fans are at celebrating our teams’ big wins, we’ve also become equally adept at dealing with their catastrophic losses. That gives you an indication of how successful Boston sports have been over the past 12 years. On one side we have three Patriots Super Bowl Titles, two Red Sox World Series Championships, a 17th banner for the Celtics and most recently a Stanley Cup for the Bruins. But on the other side there are two Patriots Super Bowl losses (one while chasing a perfect season), two Patriots AFC Championship Game losses (with the Pats leading both those games at halftime), two Red Sox ALCS losses in seven games (including the 2003 Grady Little/Pedro game), a Celtics NBA Title loss in seven games (after being up in the series three games to two), and a Celtics Conference Championship loss in seven games (ditto).

Side Note: Holy Shit. Can’t we ever just lose a playoff series in five games? Maybe get swept in four games? Why do all our losses come in the most dramatic fashion?

Anyway, the first side of that coin makes it impossible for anyone to empathize with us on the second side of the coin. And that’s fair. But it doesn’t mean that these playoff losses hurt us any less than they hurt fans of other teams.

I don’t have a recap of Sunday’s games for obvious reasons (A full bottle of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey + a mind-boggling Patriots loss). But what I do have is a smorgasbord of disjointed thoughts on coping with tough sports losses.

Until just a couple years ago, I always took my teams’ losses extremely tough. And I always thought it was my god-given right to react as poorly to these losses as I wanted. When I say “extremely tough” I’m talking about drowning my sorrows in whatever cheap booze I could find, holing up in my bedroom for days, refusing to talk to people, and even crying. Yes, crying!

Here’s an incomplete list of some of those poor reactions I’m talking about:

  • After the Red Sox lost to the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS, I walked into my kitchen, lined up four shot glasses and took down half a bottle of shitty Vodka in about three minutes. I proceeded to walk the streets of Boston by myself for hours that night, alternating between looking for a Yankees fan to punch in the face and crying into the sleeve of my sweatshirt.
  • Also after that ’03 disaster, I wouldn’t talk to my oldest brother (one of the bigger Boston sports influences in my life) for three weeks. He didn’t wanna talk to me either. It would just be too painful to have to rehash the details…actually I think we would have set the world record for longest phone call without any words spoken. So for 20 days my poor Mom had to act as a go-between for us whenever we wanted to tell each other something.
  • When the Patriots lost to the Giants in February 2008, me and my other brother had to walk home from my oldest brother’s apartment. On the way (keep in mind it was a one-mile walk), we split eight beers and a bottle of champagne. Apparently this loss was too painful to simply drown our sorrows in alcohol. For this loss, we needed to be destructive. So we went out into the street, threw my Patriots hat on the ground, doused it in lighter fluid and set that thing on fire. Thinking we had proved our point, I turned away from the flames to walk back inside. When I turned around one more time to say “see you in hell” to the hat, I found my brother pissing on the burning hat. It was a perfect exclamation point.
  • After that same Patriots loss, I strolled into work at 11am the next morning with a pounding headache. This awful co-worker (a pompous, conniving, little shit) was waiting at my desk just so he could be the first person to scream “18-1” in my face. Ever since that day, I’ve always hoped he would contract a deadly disease. After Richard Sherman and Terrell Suggs, I think he’s the person I’d most likely kill if I was guaranteed to get away with it (If I knew back then that I didn’t want a career in software sales, I probably would have thrown him out of our office’s third story window).
  • And after last year’s Super Bowl loss I simply walked through the Mission District in San Francisco looking to talk trash to, and possibly get in a fight with. anyone wearing New York Giants gear.

So after the latest edition of “Patriots choke in the playoffs” on Sunday, how did I react? By taking my dog for a long walk with my girlfriend and then drowning my sorrows in chocolate. I’ll admit I had one moment on that walk where I started stomping my feet and whining that “it isn’t fair, why can’t they just win one more Super Bowl while Brady’s around…”

Is my lack of a childish reaction to this latest loss a sign that I’m growing up? Actually, I think it’s just more of a realization I had over the past couple years when it comes to sports: Let’s say you have a favorite team in each of the four major sports. Most people are lucky if they get to see two or three championships among their four teams in a lifetime. Let’s say you live to be 85 years old and the first 10 years of your life don’t count because you were too young to be affected by your teams’ wins and losses. That means 75 years of actually caring about sports, multiplied by four teams per year. You have 300 different sports seasons that have to come to an end at some point. Even the luckiest among us are going to see 290 of those seasons end in bitter disappointment.

That’s where my realization comes in. Can I really spend a lifetime having meltdown after meltdown whenever my teams lose? Because they’re going to lose a lot. And there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care. I’m just saying we have no choice but to put it behind us and move on with life. Much like a football team does after a regular season win when they say they’re going to celebrate for one night and then move on to the next opponent, it’s OK to spend one night being miserable after a playoff loss, but then the sun comes up the next day and it’s time to get over it.

My advice is to wait two days before reading your local newspapers, watching sports programming on TV or listening to any sort of sports talk radio. Two days is enough time for you to cool off and go to your happy place. And for the people living in Boston, you should feel lucky. You get to go to work this week surrounded by mostly fellow miserable Boston sports fans. There are Boston fans all over the country who had to walk into work yesterday morning and deal with fans of other cities who couldn’t wait to rub this loss in their faces. Trust me, it’s as helpless of a feeling as you can have.

In the spirit of getting over this latest setback, here are some silver linings for New England fans:

  • Having Wes Welker back next year would be huge, of course, but let’s not forget that the chances of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez missing time with injuries in 2013 are very slim.
  • The running backs will only get better. Stevan Ridley is their best pure runner, but Shane Vereen was the surprise in the playoffs, establishing himself as a capable runner and receiver.
  • The offense is as good as it’s ever been, and there’s no reason to think it’ll slow down anytime soon.
  • There’s absolutely no indication that Tom Brady is slowing down. He was still a top-10 quarterback in every important category this year. If you think the Championship window is only open as long as Brady is playing at an elite level, I’d say we have at least three more seasons of opportunity.
  • There’s also no indication that Bill Belichick is regressing as a coach or losing his desire to run the Patriots (if you mention the two times Brady/Belichick screwed up clock management at the end of a half this year, I will stab you. Name a coach or QB who hasn’t made those one or two gaffes this year).
  • The defense improved this year, and it’s young enough that you can expect more improvement next year. They were a top-10 defense in points allowed per game this season, they increased their takeaway-to-giveaway differential from +17 in 2011 to +25 in 2012, and they’re heading in the right direction in terms of yards allowed per game (from 31st-ranked in 2011 to 25th in 2012).
  • Remember how the Patriots thrived as a “no one believes in us” team 10 years ago? Maybe now that they’ve choked away playoff games four years in a row, when next January rolls around, they can play the “no one believes in us in a big game” card.
  • It could be worse, we could be sports fans who have to pretend to enjoy rooting for Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs.

When you finally emerge from the dark hole you crawled into after Sunday night’s game, you may be wondering who you should root for in the Super Bowl. That’s the biggest no-brainer in the history of this blog. You root for the 49ers, hard. You do not root for the team that doesn’t know how to be a gracious, respectful winner (Suggs and other Ravens just couldn’t contain themselves after the game. They just had to take more satisfaction in the Patriots losing than in their own team winning). You don’t root for the team that has one of the biggest headhunters in the game (Bernard Pollard). You don’t root for the team who, if they win the Super Bowl, would probably say something like “This one title means more than the Patriots’ three titles because of SpyGate.” That’s not a team that deserves to win anything. But if the Ravens do win, I won’t freak out and throw a tantrum. I’ll just look forward to the regular season meeting between them and the Patriots in 2013.