While I’m not going to sit here and evaluate every player to ever succeed in Boston, I wanted to acknowledge a trend that has occurred with the teams today. Do me a favor and think of the most iconic player on each of the four major Boston sports teams in 2017. Although some different names may have come to mind for you, my picks for these spots are Isaiah Thomas, Brad Marchand, Tom Brady, and Dustin Pedroia (As much as we all hate it, David Ortiz is retired). Aside from being the most recognizable player on each of their given teams, what do these guys have in common? They are all underdogs.
Each one of these guys found a way to succeed in Boston when the odds were not in their favor. So this bring up the golden question. Why do underdogs commonly succeed in Boston? There’s essentially one simple reason.
While most superstars have been showered with praise their entire athletic careers, these underdogs have not gotten such a reception. As an example, we’ll look at Tom Brady. It has been extremely well-documented that Tom has had success at every level as a quarterback, but come draft night back in 2000, all 31 other teams continuously passed on him because he was “not strong enough” and “too slow for a quarterback”. These are dangerous comments to make when taking into consideration the type of fiery, chip on the shoulder type of personality that Tom has; yet, only the Patriots were willing to take a chance on him. He was never truly given the keys to the kingdom during his time at Michigan, and that wasn’t about to change when he came to New England to be the 4th string QB. Many highly touted players have come and gone in Boston because they can’t handle being put under a microscope like this. In Tom’s case, he used the criticism he received as motivation to keep pushing and preparing for when his opportunity finally came. And when he was given that opportunity, he was able to take full advantage of it.
Similarly, Dustin Pedroia, Brad Marchand, and Isaiah Thomas have been criticized all their lives because they were not big enough, strong enough, or fast enough to succeed when it comes to their sport. In each of their cases, they have made it to such a high level by putting in the extra effort that others do not feel is necessary. Although Dustin Pedroia will almost always be the smallest player on the diamond, he makes up for it by making the hustle plays that you don’t see from many other second basemen. I’ve been watching Dustin play since his rookie year back in 2007, and I can say with total confidence that I have never seen a ball go by him where he was not completely laid out on the ground trying to take away the base hit. On the Celtics end of the spectrum, they have Isaiah Thomas, who has just become the shortest player in league history to make multiple NBA all-star teams. As we all know, Thomas was picked with the last pick in the 2011 draft. He then spent 4 seasons in Sacramento/Phoenix where he was not viewed as a star, nor a primary scoring option. After 2 full seasons in Boston, Isaiah is building his case for MVP candidacy and is proving that he is a legit superstar in the NBA even at 5’9”. Last but not least, Brad Marchand was not a highly touted first round draft pick like we see today with Connor McDavid or David Pastrnak. Brad Marchand was a measly third round pick who’s long term success has been doubted because of how poorly his lack of size matched up with his aggressive style of play. That has not proven to be the case as Marchand is in his 7th full year in the league and has been a 20+ goal scorer with a positive plus-minus every year but one. Over the past 2 season, Marchand has solidified himself as a supreme offensive threat and an elite shorthanded scorer.
As we’ve seen demonstrated by the careers of these players, you don’t have to be a lifelong superstar to succeed in the Boston market. Judging by the Boston experiences of players such as Carl Crawford and Laurence Maroney, it’s probably best to acquire players that are highly criticised. So keep this in mind on Day 3 of the NFL draft, or when one of the teams trades for a guy you’ve never heard of because there’s a pretty good chance he may be Beantown’s next superstar.
Photo: (CBS Boston)