In December 2008, Sports of Boston launched the first SoB Awards Show, issuing awards to those involved with Boston sports for their exceptional performance in the year 2008. The Sports of Boston staff continued this tradition in every year since, now voting in three categories for the year 2013: Story of the Year, Game of the Year and Player of the Year.
It was one of the most difficult days our society had in some time. On April 15, two explosions went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring 264. The city, nation and world were rocked, but the spirit and determination of Boston and those willing to help brought normalcy back to Boston more quickly than otherwise would have been possible.
As is often the case, sports helped the city to persevere through tough times. The Red Sox played their first game after the bombings on Saturday, April 20, after Friday’s game was postponed due to the city-wide manhunt for the suspects. David Ortiz delivered an emotional speech before the game, a 4-3 victory over Kansas City, and became a leading figurehead in the team’s World Series championship.
The Bruins had their first home on Wednesday April 17, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Sabres. A particularly special moment occurred during the National Anthem, when Rene Rancourt started the song, then allowed the crowd to finish singing shortly after the beginning. After the game, players from both sides came together to offer a salute to the city and all the bombing victims.
Since then, the Bruins came within a moment of forcing a Stanley Cup Game 7, and of course the Red Sox went on to win the World Series. While it was a tough time for everyone, we’re all grateful for what the Red Sox, Bruins and everyone else did to help out following such a horiffic tragedy.
This was the toughest decision of the Awards, between the Pats/Broncos, Bruins/Leafs and Red Sox championship clinchers among other choices that couldn’t all be included in the nomination phase. In the end, the Patriots showed the biggest grit and determination in a situation that was perhaps closer to impossible than any other game. Turning the ball over on their first three possessions and down 24-0 at halftime, the Pats didn’t look good. They also punted twice, turned the ball over on downs, and got off a singular desperation pass before halftime. Many were trying to beat the traffic or find something decent on TV to escape the pain. Boy were they sorry.
In the second half, four touchdowns to start, followed a field goal propelled New England to an improbable lead, before one last touchdown by Denver with just over three minutes left forced overtime. And that’s where the fun really began.
New England won the overtime coin toss, but instead of taking the ball like you would 99 times per 100, New England chose to kick off to start overtime in order to have the luxury of playing with a strong wind. After a chess match of punts, it looked like the game would end in a draw, but Tony Carter fumbled an attempted catch when receiving a punt deep in his own end. After positioning the ball for Stephen Gostkowski, New England kicked the game winner to complete the improbable win.
Thanks to an amazing year in which he played a major role in bring the World Series Trophy back to Boston, David Ortiz has been named the SoB Player of the Year for 2013. During the regular season alone, Big Papi hit .309 with 30 homers and two triples, the latter being amazing for someone with just about no speed. Still, Ortiz set a new personal best with four steals on the year as well, and was also intentionally walked a career high 27 times.
We all know how monstrous Papi performed in the World Series (.688 average to go along with eight walks), but that overshadows an ALCS line of just 2/22 with one homer and three walks. Still, there’s nobody Boston would rather have at the plate with the game on the line than David Ortiz.
And from Ortiz’ emotional post-marathon bombing speech to his dugout pep talks, he emerged more than ever as the foremost leader in the locker room. The chemistry he helped foster directly led to an army of beards (and to a lesser extent, the men attached to them) overcoming the stigma of the past few seasons and surge onward to a championship. And if you play a role in helping your team win it all, you deserve the recognition.