Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Englanders Ponder New Status: Are We Winners?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Englanders Ponder New Status: Are We Winners?

Article excerpt

In October, the Red Sox shattered the "Curse of the Bambino."

Three months later, the Patriots have been christened the first football dynasty of the new millennium, winning their third Super Bowl in four years. And in an uncharacteristic burst of hubris, some New Englanders are proclaiming their home the sports capital of the world.

In a place where many residents are more familiar with suffering than superlatives, the Patriots' 2005 victory parade drew thousands of fans reveling in the city's new embarrassment of riches.

Even after the ticker tape is swept away, when the sports world moves on to March Madness and spring training, this "city of champs" will probably be left with more than just an engraved trophy. The record-tying 11 catches by Deion Branch, who emerged as Super Bowl MVP, and the heroics of David Ortiz, whose homers buoyed the Red Sox in their historic comeback against the Yankees, will be etched into the public memory. They could help forge a sense of community that may not boost the city's coffers, but should foster a renewed sense of civic engagement.

"There are not that many events during the course of our lives in which the identity of our community is reaffirmed," says Andrew Zimbalist, a sports historian and economist at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. "As unintended as it might be, [a championship] has an important galvanizing effect."

Now New England, with its stiff upper lip, has been admitted into the top tier of sports winners, along with such cities as Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Dallas, and - yes - archrival New York. As grand as this prospect sounds, it's a reality that has some fans questioning what comes next.

"The Patriots used to be heartbreakers, like the Red Sox," says Betty Soave, a lifelong fan of both teams, as she waits for a city bus in Cambridge, Mass. She's lived through so many near misses and painful interceptions that she doesn't quite know what to do with this newfound bounty: "I didn't think it was going to happen."

Not that victory isn't sweet. Boasting rights might be the most immediate benefit. "Everyone in the world's a Patriots fan, right?" asks Ms. Soave, deadpan.

And in this age of free agents and salary caps, it is remarkable for a team to remain as consistently on top as the Patriots have. "We don't see that type of continuity anymore," says Pete Fierle, information services manager at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. "That's why people are marveling at what the Patriots have done."

Such streaks can be a boon to certain businesses, too. Like the local souvenir shop that sells out of its freshly minted "championship" T-shirts. Or the local sports bar filled to capacity during playoff season. But when the swirl of media hype settles, economists say championships provide little net gain to their home bases. …

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