I moan about traffic on Route 20 leading to Route 128 on my way to Gillette Stadium every morning.
I know I complain to my daughters about it being pitch black at 4:20 p.m. driving them to swimming practice in mid-November.
People I work with -- you know who you are -- know how much I enjoy media scrums of 20 people surrounding an athlete to get a “one day at a time” quote and sound bite.
The winters are cold and windy, and the beautiful summers on the Cape and Nantucket don’t last nearly long enough.
But I’m here to tell you on this Thanksgiving 2012 I’m extremely grateful to be covering sports in the best sports town in America. Hands down.
I often tell people when they ask about the hours, the running around, the juggling of professional and family obligations that there is absolutely nothing else I would rather be doing.
That alone is reason to be thankful in times like these.
Since last week was such a rousing success, here are just 10 reasons I like it here so much. (And I’ll try not to show my ignorance like last week when I left Wes Welker off the “toughest” all-time Patriots list.)
10. Sellouts everywhere -- Patriots (200 straight as of last Sunday, and counting), Red Sox (793, mostly legit), Bruins (129) and Celtics (55). There’s no city in America that supports its teams like Boston. The proof -- again, mostly legit -- is in the pudding. The most positive side effect is that the buildings always are loud, electric and full of energy. Built-in five-hour energy to get through the long seasons.
9. Bill Belichick -- Maybe it’s the complexity of the man. Maybe it’s having the privilege of covering the modern-era Paul Brown or Vince Lombardi. Maybe it’s the fact that part of me loves the mentality that he genuinely doesn’t care what the naysayers think. But I am grateful to have covered on a daily basis one of the five greatest coaches the sport has ever known. And he’s going to wind up in Canton on the first ballot. Those of us who cover the Patriots day-in and day-out live with the "Patriot Way." Sure, I roll my eyes when things happen like Rob Gronkowski’s injury. I knew what was coming on Monday during the conference call -- the static, the noise, the refusal to second-guess any in-game strategy. But this much I can say, I’ll almost certainly never cover another football coach like him with his track record. I’ll take the trade-off.
8. Rivalries -- Red Sox-Yankees, Bruins-Canadiens, Patriots-Jets, Celtics-Lakers, Heat, Sixers and Knicks. No town boasts the number of genuine rivalries across the board like Boston can.
7. Impatience is a virtue -- The Bobby Valentine experiment is the best example of why this is a good thing. One of the things I truly love about New England and the fan base, they do not suffer fools -- or foolishness -- at all. It’s the one miscalculation the Red Sox made when trying to “market” their field manager and sell him to the public. Fans want a manager to run the team and stay out of the way. Too often, as we know all too well now, Bobby V WAS the story during the season and he put himself in the crosshairs. But thanks to a disaster, and public humiliation after the fact, he was gone after one season. There was ZERO chance fans would -- or should -- tolerate this.
6. Intelligence of owners -- Robert Kraft kept the Patriots from moving to St. Louis and turned down Hartford when he got the right deal in Foxboro. He’s built something no one but he and his family envisioned in the early '90s when he bought the team: an NFL dynasty. John Henry, with the help of Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, purchased the Red Sox and immediately brought playoff and World Series success to Boston. They build the Red Sox brand into a monster, both good and bad. But they were precise in executing their plan. Wyc Grousbeck, with his financial savvy, purchased the Celtics for $325 million and, after early struggles, hired Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers. Those proved to be the best personnel moves he’s ever made. And say what you will about Jeremy Jacobs, he runs the Bruins as efficiently as humanly possible. Like Grousbeck, he ran into good fortune with Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien and has stayed out of the way. Now, if he would just relent a little on the CBA, we could have an NHL season.
5. Doc Rivers -- Without question, the most media-savvy and congenial professional head coach or manager I’ve ever covered. And there have been a few. But Rivers gets it. He gets all of it, the pregame chat with reporters outside the locker room, the chats with reporters after practice, the ability to own up to his mistakes after a loss. He does all of it with a smile and he answers questions honestly and openly. No holds barred. In this day of covering your butt, he isn’t afraid to call his own players or coaches or himself out. He’s honest about his feelings and he does it with a smile on his face. His personality was the reason NBC hired him to cover the latest “Dream Team” at the London Olympics.
4. National relevance -- Three Patriots games on Thanksgiving in the last decade, Sunday and Monday night football, ESPN Sunday night baseball just about once a month, the Celtics on Christmas. Why? Because all of the networks know that Boston teams go way beyond the borders of New England in their following and interest. I get e-mails nearly every week from PR director Stacey James of the Patriots about yet another TV ratings record falling. Part of that, of course, is because of the success of the team, but part of that is because Tom Brady is must-watch viewing every week in New England and around the country.
3. Hockey matters -- What I remember most about the 2011 Stanley Cup run with the Bruins was getting the chance to surprise my two daughters and taking them to an empty TD Garden and having their picture taken holding the most famous trophy in North America. At 11 and 8, they got a taste of what every adult in New England already knew, the Stanley Cup looks at home in Boston. Fans here arguably were as passionate and emotional about that Cup as they were the two World Series titles because the Bruins had awakened the dormant hockey fervor in New England. That’s why so many are hoping (perhaps against hope) that Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs (from Western New York) backs down a little and helps resolve the NHL labor impasse.
2. Tradition -- Ted Williams, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Bobby Orr, Red Auerbach. Boston’s heritage is unequalled across all sports in North America. Obviously, New York has its Yankees, Montreal the Canadiens, Green Bay its Packers and Pittsburgh its Steelers, but when you throw it all in the mix, Boston has it all. Star power is stronger today than ever. With KG, Paul Pierce, the not-so dearly departed Ray Allen to Miami, Rajon Rondo, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Jason Varitek, you have great teams with great history and great characters.
1. Excellence -- Three Super Bowl titles, two World Series trophies, a Stanley Cup and a 17th NBA banner all since February 2002. Winning for the fans never gets old, and ask any reporter who’s ever made a living off writing sports, fans who care consume more media when their teams are good. It’s all just part of the food chain.
I’m thankful to my friends, family and colleagues who put up with me.
Oh, and one more thing. I’m very thankful to all of you for continuing to read my rants in this space every week.
So, while I’m spending Thanksgiving at MetLife Stadium with colleague Chris Price, giving you everything you’ll ever want to know about Patriots-Jets, do me a favor and have a turkey leg with crackling dark brown skin (my absolute favorite), some stuffing, cranberry, two helpings of mashed potatoes with EXTRA gravy, cranberry sauce, peas and two pieces of pumpkin pie.
Our Trags Bag this week is a natural: What are Boston sports fans most thankful for? To the bag for a few pre-feast morsels.
@PezDOY 2011 Stanley Cup
@derwinredsox seeing all four of our major sports teams win championships in my lifetime.
@FlyingOrr Boston Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup Champions for sure. Oh, and Tyler Seguin. @tylerseguin92 #Bruins
@CornChowdah I am thankful for Wes Welker. This time next year we will be booing him when he is playing for the Colts.
@teala Tom Brady
@Ct_Smoke Diehard #Bruins fan.. but I feel most for the Garden workers who need the money and have no job thanx to the GREED of #NHL / #NHLPA
@xtgplayer88 Seeing a World Series win in Australian in 07 with a UCONN exchange student who is now a closest friend.
@PatriotsXLVII Thankful to have benefitted from the leadership of both Red Auerbach and Robert Kraft.
@GregCabana Thankful that the teams I root for have been in the title mix for the last 12 years or so. Don't take that for granted.