Boston sports continued its dominance of the 21st century with the New England Patriots most recent Super Bowl title, secured by Tom Brady’s consecutive fourth-quarter touchdown drives against Seattle and Malcolm Butler’s game-saving interception. The city of Boston has now seen all four of its major sports teams win a title in the last seven years. Here’s the rundown…
*The 2008 Boston Celtics won the NBA title behind Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
*The 2011 Boston Bruins captured the Stanley Cup thanks to goaltender Tim Thomas.
*The 2013 Boston Red Sox won the World Series and lifted a city after the tragedy of the Marathon bombing.
*The 2014 New England Patriots have won another title for Tom Brady & Bill Belichick.
If you’re wondering whether a city seeing all four of its teams win in this tight of a timeframe is a record, the answer is yes. In fact, Boston broke its own record. The previous best was eleven years, when these teams all won between 2001 and 2011. The Patriots and Red Sox each winning again moved up the timetable.
How long with this current record hold up? Theoretically it could end any year and one city could sweep the Grand Slam of the World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and Super Bowl. Only once has a city come close–the great sports town of Philadelphia saw all four of its teams play for the championship in 1980, but only the Phillies won it all.
Let’s take a brief run through the other cities with teams in all four professional sports and see how close they might be. Let me first explain one key ground rule–the city of New York is split into two parts. When you have two teams in each sport, it’s an unfair advantage. I separate them by the more popular teams (the Aristocracy) and the ones who have to fight and scrap for their attention (the Populists).
The same principle applies to other cities with multiple teams in a sport, although in the case of Los Angeles (Dodgers/Angels) they don’t qualify for this list because they don’t have an NFL team. Chicago can split into the North Side and South Side, divided by the Cubs and White Sox, but united everywhere else.
Finally, 2009 is a key benchmark date. We’re looking for cities that would be a viable threat to complete the Grand Slam in the sports year of 2015 and pull even with Boston, so ’09 is as far back as we can go.
New York Aristocracy (Giants, Yankees, Rangers, Knicks)
The Yankees won in 2009, and the Giants got the Super Bowl win in 2011. The Rangers made the Cup Finals last year and with a goaltender like Henrik Lundqvist are a threat to do it this spring. But the Knicks aren’t going anywhere. The good news for the aristocrats of the Big Apple is that with the Yankees being the furthest one out, they’re always a threat to buy their way back to the top. Combine this with a Phil Jackson rebuild of the Knicks and maybe a 2011-17 run would be doable.
New York Populists (Jets, Mets, Islanders, Knicks)
The last title for this group with the Mets in 1986 and only the Islanders are a contender at the moment.
Philadelphia (Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, 76ers)
With 2008 now falling off the board for catching Boston, the Phillies ’08 World Series win no longer can be counted and that’s the most recent title for Philly. The Eagles are the best team in the city right now, but on balance there’s a lot of rebuilding going on. The 76ers are the intriguing one–they’re absolutely terrible, but in the NBA that’s often the key to getting better quickly. And seven years is a long time to stock up with a lottery picks. Either way though, it’s tough to see a scenario where all four teams come together in the immediate future.
Chicago (Bears, Cubs/White Sox, Blackhawks, Bulls)
There’s some possibilities here, with the Blackhawks winning in 2013, so that gives everyone else to 2019 to get it done. The Bulls are a threat as long as Derrick Rose stays healthy. The Bears just hired John Fox, although winning the Super Bowl is admittedly more than a longshot. If the city is going to pull off the Grand Slam, the focus has to be on the North Side, with Joe Maddon now with the Cubs.
Detroit (Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons)
There’s nothing on the board in 2009 or later, with the Red Wings 2008 Stanley Cup title now sliding out of the seven-year timeframe. The Red Wings continue to be a consistent contender and the Tigers still are as well, although you wonder if they’re window hasn’t closed. The Lions are improving, as are the Pistons.
Minneapolis (Vikings, Twins, Wild, Timberwolves)
This is a depressed sports city right now. No championship since the Twins won in 1991. The Vikings are trending upward, but they still finished under .500 last season.
Dallas (Cowboys, Rangers, Stars, Mavericks)
There’s some room to grow, with the Mavs winning the NBA title in 2011. The Cowboys are back to being a contender, and while the Rangers fell hard last season, they are flush with cash and a good farm system. A Super Bowl title and World Series win aren’t unthinkable between now and 2017. It’s the Stars who would have to get it together. But all things considered, this is the city that would seem to have the best shot at duplicating Boston’s feat.
Miami (Dolphins, Marlins, Panthers, Heat)
Even with the Heat’s 2013 NBA crown buying time for everyone else, it’s hard to see a glory era of Miami sports ahead, so long as the Marlins and Panthers continue to struggle along. Even the Dolphins, with a top defense, are finding it extremely hard just to make the playoffs, much less win the Super Bowl.
Washington D.C. (Redskins, Nationals, Capitals, the NBA basketball franchise)
As noted in a previous post, I won’t use the nickname of the Washington professional basketball team, because I find it offensive that they changed the name to appease the forces of political correctness. As to the topic at hand..this team could win the NBA title as soon as this June. The Nationals could win the World Series in October. The Capitals are playing well again, and anything can happen in the Stanley Cup playoffs. That just leaves the Redskins. Well, it was a nice thought anyway.
Denver (Broncos, Rockies, Avalanche, Nuggets)
An economically growing region is going to have a positive effect on the ability of their teams to spend money (similar to what’s going on in Dallas). But the fact remains there’s no title since the Avalanche won the Cup in 2001. The Broncos will be a threat to win the Super Bowl if Peyton Manning comes back, but everyone else looks a ways off.
Phoenix (Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Coyotes, Suns)
The Cardinals and Suns are both admirable teams that seem to play over their heads. I suppose they could add a couple pieces and win championships. But the Coyotes are abysmal and the Diamondbacks have turned into a significant disappointment after the initial optimism when Kirk Gibson became manager.
We could expand the number of cities eligible. For example, Tampa Bay has three teams (MLB, NFL, NHL) and if you gave them rooting credit for the Orlando Magic, it could be a four-sport market. If you give Cleveland, with the Cavs, Browns and Indians, credit for the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL, that becomes a four-sport market. In some places–notably Los Angeles–the presence of a team like USC football could substitute for the lack of an NFL team. There are a lot of different ways to attack this.
But a review of the “pure” four-sport cities show just how hard it is to do what Boston sports has accomplished in the last seven years.