Boston Sports

Sep 2017
5,245
6,304
Massachusetts
#1
The Boston area has been experiencing a statistically improbable run of sporting success. Boston's the proud home of the reigning Super Bowl and MLB champions and the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup finals with oddsmakers favoring them heavily. It's possible we'll wind up with only the Celtics, of the big four teams, not reigning as champs.... and even they made the second round of the playoffs. It hasn't been a one-year thing, either. Each Boston team has won at least one championship since 2000, with the Pats and Red Sox being easily the two most dominant franchises in their sports for that era. As a city, Boston has piled up a much higher winning percentage in the big sports than any other city that competes in them all, over the last two decades, and has more championships even than cities that field multiple teams per sport.

I wonder if it's all just a weird coincidence, or if there's some socioeconomic explanation -- something literally or figuratively in the water. Some of it might be about success breeding success: when one team does well, it helps to stoke a sports culture, which makes it easier for other teams to attract and retain free agents, and amps up effort in the frenzied arenas. But possibly sociology factors in a different way. Boston has a big and unusually wealthy media market, where teams don't share time with others in the same sport. That gives players an ability to make a lot of money in endorsements and the like, which probably makes it a more attractive destination. It's also got a lot going for it in terms of being a pleasant, low-crime, culturally enriched big city -- the kind of place many players like enough to stick around even after their playing days. There isn't that whiff of economic decay and social dysfunction you'd get in Detroit, Cleveland, or Buffalo, nor the sense you're in the middle of nowhere.

Of course, that doesn't really explain why Boston was so underwhelming, in terms of sports, in the 90s, when it had the same stuff going for it. Nor does it explain the absence of a lot of success somewhere like Seattle, which has similar advantages. So maybe it's just a weird coincidence.
 
Mar 2012
54,653
36,289
New Hampshire
#3
The Boston area has been experiencing a statistically improbable run of sporting success. Boston's the proud home of the reigning Super Bowl and MLB champions and the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup finals with oddsmakers favoring them heavily. It's possible we'll wind up with only the Celtics, of the big four teams, not reigning as champs.... and even they made the second round of the playoffs. It hasn't been a one-year thing, either. Each Boston team has won at least one championship since 2000, with the Pats and Red Sox being easily the two most dominant franchises in their sports for that era. As a city, Boston has piled up a much higher winning percentage in the big sports than any other city that competes in them all, over the last two decades, and has more championships even than cities that field multiple teams per sport.

I wonder if it's all just a weird coincidence, or if there's some socioeconomic explanation -- something literally or figuratively in the water. Some of it might be about success breeding success: when one team does well, it helps to stoke a sports culture, which makes it easier for other teams to attract and retain free agents, and amps up effort in the frenzied arenas. But possibly sociology factors in a different way. Boston has a big and unusually wealthy media market, where teams don't share time with others in the same sport. That gives players an ability to make a lot of money in endorsements and the like, which probably makes it a more attractive destination. It's also got a lot going for it in terms of being a pleasant, low-crime, culturally enriched big city -- the kind of place many players like enough to stick around even after their playing days. There isn't that whiff of economic decay and social dysfunction you'd get in Detroit, Cleveland, or Buffalo, nor the sense you're in the middle of nowhere.

Of course, that doesn't really explain why Boston was so underwhelming, in terms of sports, in the 90s, when it had the same stuff going for it. Nor does it explain the absence of a lot of success somewhere like Seattle, which has similar advantages. So maybe it's just a weird coincidence.
I have to wonder if its that the scouts and coaches at the Boston teams rarely go for the big star? For example, nobody wanted Tom Brady. He wasnt on anybodys radar. But the Patriots saw him as a diamond in the rough. The Patriots were terrible back then and had the chance to select somebody ranked better but they didnt. Same thing with a few Bruins and Red Sox guys. They never went for the hype or the best of the best. They looked for that special someone who had talent and the right attitude. I think that matters a lot.
 
Likes: The Man
Sep 2017
5,245
6,304
Massachusetts
#4
I have to wonder if its that the scouts and coaches at the Boston teams rarely go for the big star? For example, nobody wanted Tom Brady. He wasnt on anybodys radar. But the Patriots saw him as a diamond in the rough. The Patriots were terrible back then and had the chance to select somebody ranked better but they didnt. Same thing with a few Bruins and Red Sox guys. They never went for the hype or the best of the best. They looked for that special someone who had talent and the right attitude. I think that matters a lot.
That could be a factor... though, at least in recent years, it's been more a matter of necessity than choice. The Pats haven't had a high draft pick option in years, and their success has also meant that they have to pay a lot just to hold onto their own players, who have championship resumes, so they can seldom go out and get the big free agent signing. The Red Sox and Bruins also almost never draft high, and even the Celtics have only had a few weak seasons.... like, ever.

Here's an outside-the-box explanation that occurred to me. Maybe it's the guys whose names we never even hear who are making the difference. I mean, we've been talking lately about Massachusetts dominating when it comes to education levels, and the region attracts a whole bunch of brain-worker professional types. Well, the vast majority of people who work for an organization like the Red Sox aren't the guys out on the field. It's marketing guys, accountants, IT people, logistics support, doctors, analysts, personal trainers, nutritionists, and so on. Those positions matter. Analysts, for example, matter a whole lot in the "moneyball" era. If you've got a back-room of MIT guys applying more sophisticated home-brew statistical models to figuring out where to spend the team's money, that can mean more draft choices like Tom Brady and fewer like, say, Chad Pennington (who was the top QB in that year's draft.) Similarly, if you have local access to some of the best doctors and sports scientists in the world, it's easier to stay on the cutting edge in getting maximum performance from players. Some of those factors would play into the longer-term excellence of Boston teams (e.g., it also had great doctors when the Celtics were running up their other 16 championships), while some would matter more today than in the past (e.g., in the past, analysts were mostly just second-tier retired players, rather than math whiz kids).
 
Likes: The Man
Mar 2012
54,653
36,289
New Hampshire
#5
That could be a factor... though, at least in recent years, it's been more a matter of necessity than choice. The Pats haven't had a high draft pick option in years, and their success has also meant that they have to pay a lot just to hold onto their own players, who have championship resumes, so they can seldom go out and get the big free agent signing. The Red Sox and Bruins also almost never draft high, and even the Celtics have only had a few weak seasons.... like, ever.

Here's an outside-the-box explanation that occurred to me. Maybe it's the guys whose names we never even hear who are making the difference. I mean, we've been talking lately about Massachusetts dominating when it comes to education levels, and the region attracts a whole bunch of brain-worker professional types. Well, the vast majority of people who work for an organization like the Red Sox aren't the guys out on the field. It's marketing guys, accountants, IT people, logistics support, doctors, analysts, personal trainers, nutritionists, and so on. Those positions matter. Analysts, for example, matter a whole lot in the "moneyball" era. If you've got a back-room of MIT guys applying more sophisticated home-brew statistical models to figuring out where to spend the team's money, that can mean more draft choices like Tom Brady and fewer like, say, Chad Pennington (who was the top QB in that year's draft.) Similarly, if you have local access to some of the best doctors and sports scientists in the world, it's easier to stay on the cutting edge in getting maximum performance from players. Some of those factors would play into the longer-term excellence of Boston teams (e.g., it also had great doctors when the Celtics were running up their other 16 championships), while some would matter more today than in the past (e.g., in the past, analysts were mostly just second-tier retired players, rather than math whiz kids).
I guess then we would need to know where all the back room brains come from. I knew somebody in the marketing office at the Pats about 5 years ago and the joke at the time was they all were from the midwest and grew up loving their respective home town teams. Mostly OH, MI, WI etc Massively big football states. Many went to places like U Michigan, Ohio State etc. I cant speak for the other teams so I dont know their makeups. But I would guess that a big part of being behind the scenes in a pro team means you must breathe and bleed that sport. So its likely they go to college at massive sports colleges and then go to work for the pro teams. Its unlikely to get an Ivy guy who never saw a football game in their lives working for the Pats. I suppose it happens occasionally but probably not that often.
 
Likes: The Man
Sep 2017
5,245
6,304
Massachusetts
#6
I guess then we would need to know where all the back room brains come from. I knew somebody in the marketing office at the Pats about 5 years ago and the joke at the time was they all were from the midwest and grew up loving their respective home town teams. Mostly OH, MI, WI etc Massively big football states. Many went to places like U Michigan, Ohio State etc. I cant speak for the other teams so I dont know their makeups. But I would guess that a big part of being behind the scenes in a pro team means you must breathe and bleed that sport. So its likely they go to college at massive sports colleges and then go to work for the pro teams. Its unlikely to get an Ivy guy who never saw a football game in their lives working for the Pats. I suppose it happens occasionally but probably not that often.
Having gone to school near Boston, I was aware of a lot of local graduates who applied to internships and entry positions at the local sports franchises.... but it was highly competitive, so not many got it.

I did a quick check of the Red Sox front office staff to check out the theory. There seems to be something to it. For example, Mike Ganley, the Red Sox Director of Baseball Systems, is an electrical engineer who graduated from WPI and came up through the Boston tech-industry. Joe McDonald, their Director of Baseball Analytics, is a psychology graduate from Boston College. Brian O'Halloran, an assistant general manager, is a Wayland, MA native who went to Colby College. Zack Scott, another assistant general manager, was a University of Vermont Math major who got his career start with Boston-based computer company Diamond Mind. Their SVP in charge of Major and Minor League Operations is a University of Rhode Island graduate. Etc. Certainly not all of the front office came out of the "New England Intelligencia." Especially those who made their names as players tended to come from elsewhere. But with the in-the-trenches technicians, it looks like they tend to be home-grown professionals, who either started with internships from local universities, or who came over from local software or engineering companies.
 
Mar 2012
54,653
36,289
New Hampshire
#7
Having gone to school near Boston, I was aware of a lot of local graduates who applied to internships and entry positions at the local sports franchises.... but it was highly competitive, so not many got it.

I did a quick check of the Red Sox front office staff to check out the theory. There seems to be something to it. For example, Mike Ganley, the Red Sox Director of Baseball Systems, is an electrical engineer who graduated from WPI and came up through the Boston tech-industry. Joe McDonald, their Director of Baseball Analytics, is a psychology graduate from Boston College. Brian O'Halloran, an assistant general manager, is a Wayland, MA native who went to Colby College. Zack Scott, another assistant general manager, was a University of Vermont Math major who got his career start with Boston-based computer company Diamond Mind. Their SVP in charge of Major and Minor League Operations is a University of Rhode Island graduate. Etc. Certainly not all of the front office came out of the "New England Intelligencia." Especially those who made their names as players tended to come from elsewhere. But with the in-the-trenches technicians, it looks like they tend to be home-grown professionals, who either started with internships from local universities, or who came over from local software or engineering companies.
Well I also think the Boston fanbase has to be influential as well. I mean you probably cant find a 10 year old anywhere that wouldnt want to work for any of the sports orgs. I think it has to be a fan thing. You either love the team and grew up with them or you just love the sport. Boston has dominated forever so its not surprising the best of the best want to work there. Its also possible since they are first rate operations, they also want that local flair because they will be loyal. They wont be looking to jump ship at the first opportunity. Its been a lifelong dream for them. I am not so sure the education of the area makes a huge difference as some of the very best educated may not be sports fans at all. Which explains why we dont have Div 1 massive college sports teams here. We focus on academics, not sports. The fans are the more rowdy guys from high school. Ones that spent weekends either watching sports or going to the game. My spouse works in Cambridge MA with academics and I bet few of them could name two guys on the Pats. lol They have no interest at all.
 
Likes: Arkady
Nov 2018
5,348
1,551
Bel Air, MD
#8
I have been to Boston a few times, and it's a beautiful city, rich in history and a proud people. I think they've been fortunate to have good teams, because they've had good owners and good managers. I grew up near St. Louis, and St. Louis is a great sports city, too, at least as far as baseball and hockey.

I think some cities establish early on that the people living there love their sports teams and support them.
 
Likes: Arkady
Sep 2017
5,245
6,304
Massachusetts
#9
Well I also think the Boston fanbase has to be influential as well. I mean you probably cant find a 10 year old anywhere that wouldnt want to work for any of the sports orgs. I think it has to be a fan thing. You either love the team and grew up with them or you just love the sport. Boston has dominated forever so its not surprising the best of the best want to work there. Its also possible since they are first rate operations, they also want that local flair because they will be loyal. They wont be looking to jump ship at the first opportunity. Its been a lifelong dream for them. I am not so sure the education of the area makes a huge difference as some of the very best educated may not be sports fans at all. Which explains why we dont have Div 1 massive college sports teams here. We focus on academics, not sports. The fans are the more rowdy guys from high school. Ones that spent weekends either watching sports or going to the game. My spouse works in Cambridge MA with academics and I bet few of them could name two guys on the Pats. lol They have no interest at all.
I've got lots of relatives who live in Maine, and that influences my view of questions like this. In Maine, there's huge brain drain. The best and brightest young people tend to move to Boston and NY and never return. If a team like the Red Sox wanted to put their "back office" in Maine, they'd be hard-pressed to do so, because, at least once you get more than a half hour North of Portland, it would be hard to find enough top-notch professionals to staff the positions competently, even with the allure the Sox have for New England sports fans. How many great analysts, engineers, and marketing people want to live that far from a great city? I think that, to a lesser extent, you're going to be facing similar problems getting enough elite professionals in, say, Cleveland, Phoenix, Philadelphia, or Houston. If that is the case, then we'd expect such towns to be able to put together an occasional championship by way of conjunctions of elite players in a particular sport for the length of time those stars happen to come together, but not to be able to sustain decades-long excellence across multiple sports, where the stars come and go, but the back-office bench makes sure they're well-replaced and everyone is playing closer to potential.
 
Jul 2014
35,322
9,277
midwest
#10
I have been to Boston a few times, and it's a beautiful city, rich in history and a proud people. I think they've been fortunate to have good teams, because they've had good owners and good managers. I grew up near St. Louis, and St. Louis is a great sports city, too, at least as far as baseball and hockey.

I think some cities establish early on that the people living there love their sports teams and support them.
St Louis is the best baseball city.

Had that reputation a long time.

It's true that some people are beginning to hate Bostonb sports because of all their sports success.

They used to just hate the Patriots...
 

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