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EDITOR'S NOTE: Page 2, along with ESPN2's "Cold Pizza," is counting down the 15 Most Tortured Sports Cities in America. This week, Bill Simmons shares his thoughts on how "tortured" a sports town Boston really is. We also present our own unique list of 10 tortured moments in Boston sports.Just when I think I'm out, they puuuulllllll me back in. You already know how much I hate lists. So when Cold Pizza launched its "Most Tortured Sports Cities" package along with Page 2, I knew they'd probably be misguided enough to put Boston on the list. I knew it would infuriate me. I knew one of my bosses would ask me to write about it. I just had to stay strong. No column.
|THE 15 MOST TORTURED SPORTS CITIES|
15. Tampa Bay
14. Kansas City
11. Washington, D.C.
9. San Diego
5. Boston Want to find out what the No. 4 city is? Tune into ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" Tuesday morning in two weeks. Then head back to Page 2 to read all about it.
Them: Well, it's part of our weekly package with Cold Pizza. We need someone to write about it. Me: Wait a second ... you guys would have someone else write about Boston sports on Page 2? Them: What do you care? You live in Hollywood, you sellout. Me: That's a cheap shot! I'm from Boston! Them: Whatever.
Me: Well, if I write about this, can I write how they're wrong? Them: Yes. Me: Can I rip some of their other choices on the list?
Me: Can I take gratuitous, unprovoked potshots at Cold Pizza that have nothing to do with the list? Them: No.
Hey, at least they allowed me to skewer the list. I'm so easy. Like I wasn't going to end up writing about this. I sensed trouble from the moment it was packaged as a "Top 15." Why not a "Top 17," just so it makes no sense whatsoever? Plus, we could sit around for weeks and not come up with 15 legitimately tortured sports cities. This is what happens when you organize a Cold Pizza voting committee. I think we have all the ballots ... wait a second, did Darryl Dawkins and Doctor Dre hand theirs in yet?
|Warren Sapp led the Tampa Bay Bucs to a Super Bowl victory recently.|
14. Kansas City
|Many Washington fans are thrilled the Spurrier Era is over.|
(Naturally, they couldn't crack Cold Pizza's top five. This makes perfect sense.) 6. Minneapolis
|Minnesota fans may have seen their last World Series champion.|
Minnesota has to be top three, right? I wouldn't put them first though. Here's my choice for No. 1. (Drumroll please ...) Buffalo. Remember the movie "Hardcore," when George C. Scott's daughter disappears, so he infiltrates the graphic world of hard-core porn to track her down? And he spends the entire movie with that agonized look on his face, like he doesn't know whether to puke, hang himself or kill everyone in the room? That was every Buffalo fan after those four consecutive Super Bowl losses, one of the worst sequences of events in the history of sports. They didn't even have any other good teams to pick up the slack. That was brutal. Like dropping an atomic sports bomb on the entire city. I would put Cleveland second. You could make a strong case for them going first -- Byner's fumble, The Drive, blowing a World Series to the freakin' Marlins, Pedro's six-inning no-hitter, MJ hitting The Shot, and so on -- but since they get to watch LeBron for the next 15 years, they aren't getting the sympathy vote over poor Buffalo. Sorry. I'd stick Minnesota third. I'd have Philly fourth -- those fans are so tortured, they're the closest thing this country has to soccer hooligans. They also haven't won a championship since 1983, which warrants mentioning. Seattle rounds out my top five, followed by Cincy, D.C., K.C., Houston and Pittsburgh at No. 10 (it has been a rough stretch for the Artist Formerly Known As The City of Champions).
|Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have given Boston fans plenty to cheer about of late.|
I watched seven championship teams. Seven. Including two Super Bowl titles in the past three years. I also watched countless other teams that came damned close (including the '75 and '86 Sox, '76 Pats, '85 and '87 Celts, '78 and 79 B's, '96 Pats and last year's Sox team). Four fantastic things happened over this time, at least for me: 1. Watching the '86 Celts on a day-to-day basis. The best team ever. I haven't seen hoops played quite like that before or since. 2. Watching Pedro pitch in his prime. You could scalp decent tickets for about $75 a pop in '99 and '00. I didn't have any money. I was barely making it. Seriously. We're talking mac-and-cheese three nights a week. Didn't matter. You didn't think about these things when Pedro was pitching right down the street. You just scalped the tickets. 3. Watching that first Super Bowl victory in New Orleans -- the day the impossible happened. I still remember going into halftime up 14-3, the Superdome buzzing, that unparalled feeling where every fan realizes that something memorable could happen, that you should just be happy to be in the building ... and right as we're all realizing this, U2 comes out and sings "Beautiful Day." Never before has a song matched a sports moment like that. At least not for me.
4. This isn't a distinct moment, but it matters to me and many others growing up in Boston in the '70s: When I was a kid, I got to read columns from Leigh Montville and Ray Fitzgerald in the Globe every day. Peter Gammons covered the Sox. Will McDonough covered the Pats. Bob Ryan covered hoops. This is what we grew up with -- five guys who knew what they were doing. And if that doesn't make sports a little more special for everyone involved, I don't know what does. Those were four of my best memories. I have dozens more. Like Bird stealing the ball from Isiah, Pedro coming out of the bullpen in Cleveland, Stan Jonathan pounding Pierre Bouchard like a piece of veal ... believe me, I could go on all day. We've just had it too good. Even recently, other than the two Super Bowls, the Celtics made the Eastern finals in 2002 and the Sox nearly made the 2003 World Series. There was always something happening, and something's better than nothing. As a sports fan, would you have rather lived in Washington or Boston these last 25 years? Seattle or Boston? Minnesota or Boston? Please.
|Pedro may have finished the job last year, but he's been great to watch over the years.|
"Twenty minutes after the Yankees eliminated the Sox, I called my father to make sure he was still alive. And that's not even a joke. I wanted to make sure Dad wasn't dead. That's what it feels like to be a Red Sox fan. You make phone calls thinking to yourself, 'Hopefully, my Dad picks up, because there's at least a 5-percent chance that the Red Sox just killed him.' " Exaggerated? Absolutely not.
Am I happy to be a Red Sox fan? Absolutely.
We had Lynn, Rice, Fisk, Yaz and Tiant in the '70s; the Clemens Era in the '80s; Nomar and Pedro in the '90s ... jeez, there was always something happening. We have Fenway. We have die-hards spread across the entire country, like Cyrus's armies in "The Warriors," enough manpower to overpower half the home crowds in the American League. We have owners willing to spend upward of $100 million a year to remain competitive, an exclusive group, like being one of the only guys at a poker table with chips. We have a complicated blood-feud with the Yanks that reached Cold War proportions last winter. And we always have next year. Because you never know.
One thing I do know: We shouldn't be on this list of losers. And if anyone at Cold Pizza wants to respond ... well, I can't hear you, I have two Super Bowl rings clogging my ears. Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine