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Friday, March 29, 2002

  Spring Optimism

Play ball!

It's a beautiful spring day in New England, Opening Day is just 72 hours away, and yesterday's unfortunate (17-2) exhibition loss by our Red Sox notwithstanding, all is right in Red Sox Nation.

As BoSox fans, it's in our nature to be optimistic. Not because of who we do or don't have on the field, in the bullpen, on the bench, or even in the front office. Previous incarnations of the Olde Towne Team that had enough talent on paper to win it all flopped, while others outperformed everyone's wildest expectations. So let's leave the projections and statistical analysis and comparison to intra- and inter-division rivals to the so-called experts, and instead look at the 2002 Red Sox in the context of Boston sports. After all, if the sports gods are smiling on one team, some of it must surely rub off on the others not far down the road.

First, a quick sprint down memory lane. The last time all the cosmic forces aligned to grace pro sports in this town, the year was 1986. We started the year with the Patriots' first-ever Super Bown appearance. Granted, they got pounded by the Chicago Bears, but at least until the game started, the fans were happy. The Boston Bruins had a mediocre '85-'86 season and finished in third place, but it was enough to get them to the playoffs where they were swept by the Canadiens in the conference semi-finals. The Celtics, in their last championship season to date, won the NBA title in decisive fashion and earned themselves the designation of one of the top ten pro basketball teams in history. And the Red Sox, as we all remember, went to the World Series and came --> <-- this close to winning it all. Four major sports teams and they all made the playoffs. Granted, only one won it all, but on balance they were heady times.

So let's make a comparison to 2002. We started the year with the Patriots going to the Super Bowl. But this time, they stunned the world and won! And though there are still a few games to play and anything could happen, both the Bruins and Celtics appear playoff bound with a fair shot of giving their post-season opponents a run for their money. That leaves the Red Sox, who naturally are being picked to win it all by their loyal fans and to collapse by just about everyone else.

What might be working in our favor? For one thing, we have a fresh start. Unencumbered by the ball-and-chain combo of John Harrington and Dan Duquette, the club has an infusion of fresh ideas and a new attitude from a new principle owner who is so excited that he is doing laps around the spring training outfield and running the bases at Fenway for a photo op. We have a manager who was the owners' first choice, not second or third (taking nothing away from Jimy Williams, who may have started the job as the only candidate who would take it but more than proved his worth). The coaching staff is comprised of people who not only have the respect of players and fans alike but also know what the heck they're doing. All good signs.

Besides, you can't deny that the Patriots set a terrific tone for the year. For a team that, up until the last play of the big game, got no respect - from either their opponents or any of of the so-called experts - to win it all can only be seen as a good omen. No, make that a GREAT omen. What better way for us to wrap up the year that began so magically than for Boston's other team that gets no respect to win it all?

It's Spring in New England, and hope springs eternal.

Just my opinion.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

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