My love of history is really a love of stories and story telling. It is why I wanted to work on historical documentaries and why I wanted to work at AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. A good story is full of the dramatic and emotional, and the best ones have a surprise outcome you didn't see coming. This love and interest in storytelling translates to my love (and obsession) of sports. It's an immediate history that unfolds in front of you, especially during a playoff series with a hated rival. As the stakes get higher, the games get as dramatic and emotional as any great story should. It's also why I wanted to work in sports. Growing up a Boston Sports fan, I've learned the outcome of the 'story' may not always be to my liking. But in this decade I've witnessed the greatest comeback in sports history and an unprecedented number of championships in one decade. And the story isn't over yet.
Outside of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, I have worked in the video control room at the Boston Garden that runs the Jumbotron scoreboard since 1998. As part of the fan experience, we work to entertain the crowd between timeouts. In 1995, the aging Boston Garden was replaced by the new FleetCenter. Though the championship banners were moved to the new structure and everyone hoped they would bring the magic from the past, it wasn't to be. Luck began to turn when the venue's name was officially changed back to "The Garden" in 2008.
Boston has begun the century as the only city in America to have championships in all four major professional leagues. The success has been rewarding since I have been a sports fan my whole life. I grew up when the most famous hockey player at the time, Bobby Orr, played for the Boston Bruins and was referred to as a "God" with a capital "G." I was young when he played, but his allure was evident for years after his retirement (one of the saddest days in the city).
It's difficult to explain to outsiders the passion and loyalty we have for our teams. We may not know the players personally or ever meet them, but the uniforms they wear represent our city's identity and pride. We are so wrapped up in our team colors; it's in our bones. We admit to bleeding red, and green, black and gold, and blue. It's part of our make-up at birth; it's not something we choose.
The loveable 'Loser' moniker is over and it turned around for me the weekend of one of the worst losses in Boston Sports history. In 2003 I was with friends in Florida to see the New England Patriots play the Miami Dolphins. The night we flew in was also game seven of the American League (ALCS) pennant with our Red Sox and the New York Yankees. We were excited because we were finally in a position to beat the hated Yankees and play in the World Series. To the horror of every Boston fan we watched manger Grady Little leave a tiring starting pitcher Pedro Martinez in the eighth inning, beyond the 100 pitches he was used to pitching all year. We were winning the game, but with Martinez becoming less effective with each pitch, the Yankees tied, and then won on a home run in the 11th inning. We watched the collapse shaking our heads as this story would not be written any differently from previous years. We had been down this road too many times before, and have the internal scares to prove it.
A few days later we had to walk into Dolphin Stadium among the chants 'Hey Losers, how's it feel?" How does it feel? It feels the same every time; a punch in the gut, a pain in the chest, an empty feeling that our history wouldn't change. We were so used to taking it on the chin, we'd just nod with a painful smile.
But finally our luck was changing -- and of all places on the Miami Field. The football game was tied and in overtime. The Miami kicker missed a field goal to win the game, so we had the ball back. Quarterback Tom Brady threw an 82-yard pass down the field to receiver Troy Brown who ran it in for a touchdown and the win. At the time the Patriots hadn't won in Miami since 1997. Our story had just changed, to the shock of everyone. We walked in losers but walked out winners. The winning continued: the Patriots went onto win the Super Bowl that year for the second time and won again in 2004. No looking back now.
Are we lucky? YEP! But we've earned this. We've endured all the sports sufferings a city could for a century. No one else knows outside Boston how this feels because this hasn't happened in any city. It's historic. It's extraordinary. The payoff finally came in and the story continues.
Pam Gaudiano is the Unit Manger at AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and a control room crewmember at the Boston TD Garden.
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