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Bob Lobel: The Greatest Gifts in New England Sports

Thursday, December 27, 2012

 

Christmas Eve has always been my favorite holiday, and not just because it's my birthday.

Okay, maybe that has something to do with it. But really, it's because I feel that anticipation is usually better than the real thing. Let's assume that is true for this conversation. Now, let's merge Christmas and Thanksgiving for the rest of this article and be thankful for the immense sports pleasure that has been gifted to us as New England sports fans.

What would I call the greatest sports gift ever? An owner? A player? A writer? A moment?

I would like to make a few nominations to stimulate a little more thought and discussion on the topic. Keep in mind, however, that the biggest gift may still be to come.

It is hard to imagine that someone will come along and capture out hearts and minds like Tom Brady. Isn't that a once in a lifetime relationship between a fan base and an athlete? Then there are guys like Ted Williams. Will there ever be a greater hitter? How about Larry Bird. I can't think of another player that could compile such a complete "50 Greatest Moments" video.

We have been so lucky, and I haven't even gotten to one of the greatest winners of all time, Bill Russell. Or how about one of the great players and people like the Bruins' Bobby Orr?

I often think about what it must be like to be one of those two. To be Bill Russell or Bobby Orr 24/7 must be a tremendous burden, but it is a gift to all of us fans that they carried themselves so well.

Then I think about some sports figures that were given gifts.

Bob Kraft would never have had the same impact if Billy Sullivan wasn't front and center during his time. It seems the deeper you go with the Christmas spirit of sports, the more they all seem to be connected.

How about the "tuck rule" and Adam Vinatieri snow kick in the same game? Then there was the time Bird intercepted Isiah Thomas and dished it to Dennis Johnson to sink the Pistons.

David Tyree's miraculous helmet catch? A gift for sure, but certainly not for us. Still, there were many that went our way.

Red Auerbach, Johnny Most, Ned Martin, Gil Santos, Fred Cusack, Bob Wilson- all gifts of enormous talent and entertainment. Yaz, Pedro and all the other greats, the list really can go on and on.

The question is, will there be anything greater down the road? When you look at the history of New England sports, you have to say, "how can there be?"

Yet, with each coming season, playoff run, championship and generation of players, we all say it can and will get better. And for those of us that don't need it to get any better, we say there have been many gifts and many pleasures that comes with following these storied teams.

Go ahead, try and rank these gist, because I sure can't.

I have favorites, I like different writers. It has certainly been a gift to have Bob Ryan all these years, and yes, Dan Shaughnessy is a great writer and better person. Many more, guys like Peter Gammons, Joe Fitzgerald, Mike Barnicle have made it decades of Christmas for the region's sports fans.

I can only predict one thing. After this golden era passes, it will not get any better than this, and things will never be the same. 

 

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