Next Sunday the Patriots will play in their third Super Bowl in four years and tenth Super Bowl overall. In my lifetime alone, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing ten New England championships in professional sports. In fact, since 2001, I have only had to go through a 2 year championship “drought” once. Moral of the story; Boston is called the City of Champions for a reason. When people ask me where I’m from, I take a great deal of pride in being able to say I’m from Boston. I may have grown up in the suburbs of the south shore, but the city itself is deeply engrained in who I am and my relationship with sports.
When I think back to my earliest sports memories, they all take place in Boston. I remember weeknight drives into Fenway with my family, watching Big Papi hit a home run under the lights. I remember Saturday afternoon tailgates at Gillette Stadium before the Patriots Game. I remember road tripping down from school in Maine to go to the Bruins game, and cheering on the Celtics from the nose bleeds of the TD garden in my Paul Pierce jersey. The truth is (no pun intended), it’s way more than a game in Boston, it’s a way of life. Bostonians are no fair-weather fans; loyalty and pride run deep in our veins. If you don’t believe me just ask my dad, who reluctantly gave up his Patriots season tickets a few years back after twenty years of ownership. When you join a Boston team, you’re joining something bigger than yourself, you’re entering into a legacy of tradition and success that goes back generations. Win or lose, the entire city will have your back. That’s just our way.
This type of familial culture has had an undeniable influence on my own development as an athlete and as a person. It’s what I searched for when looking for the right college team to join, and what I continuously strive to cultivate and embody as I enter into new programs and organizations. I want people to know that I will give them everything I have, and regardless of the final score I’ll always be in their corner, because that’s just how Boston raised me. What I admire most about Boston teams isn’t just that they win a lot, although that helps, but more than anything it’s the way that they win. Do they have talented players? Sure. But they don’t win on talent alone. They win with grit and hustle and heart. They win after being down three games to none against the New York Yankees. They win after rallying from a 24 point deficit to beat the Lakers in game 4 of the NBA finals. They win in overtime after being down 3-1 in the third period of game 7 of the Stanley Cup. They win when they’re down 21-3 at halftime in the Super Bowl. It doesn’t always come easy, and it isn’t always pretty, but it is always unforgettable and undeniably deserved.
As I reflect on how sports have changed my own life, I can’t help but acknowledge all that Boston has given me. It’s provided me with a genuine appreciation for the power of sports and the life lessons they can teach us. But most importantly, it’s taught me that in the end, people are what truly matter; your relationships, the ones you love, and the lives you touch. After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, this became even more apparent. Not only are our sports teams resilient, but our people are too. I’m forever grateful to the city that taught me what it means to put your whole heart into something, and to never give up hope. So when i’m on the verge of a panic attack next Sunday, screaming at the tv screen, just know that it’s deeper than one game. It’s deeper than one season. Outsiders might not understand it, and opponents might hate it, but it’s what it means to be Boston Strong.