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Matt Vautour: World Series run recaptures place in New England hearts

  • Graham Immerman, from left, Danny McCormick, Emilene Rodley and Dan Bouquillon cheer for the Boston Red Sox during their win against the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series Wednesday at Ye Ol' Watering Hole in Northampton. In the background are Tess Lauren and Sasha Klare-Ayvazian.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Graham Immerman, from left, Danny McCormick, Emilene Rodley and Dan Bouquillon cheer for the Boston Red Sox during their win against the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series Wednesday at Ye Ol' Watering Hole in Northampton. In the background are Tess Lauren and Sasha Klare-Ayvazian.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rich Tardy, from left, Kevin Brown, Tom Livengood, Jill Cunningham and Paul McMenimen celebrate the Boston Red Sox' win against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday at Tully O'Reilly's Pub in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Rich Tardy, from left, Kevin Brown, Tom Livengood, Jill Cunningham and Paul McMenimen celebrate the Boston Red Sox' win against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday at Tully O'Reilly's Pub in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Suzanne McColgan hugs Brad Ward Wednesday at Tully O'Reilly's Pub in Northampton after the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Suzanne McColgan hugs Brad Ward Wednesday at Tully O'Reilly's Pub in Northampton after the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Will Stamel, of Northampton, cheers for the Boston Red Sox Wednesday at Ye Ol' Watering Hole in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Will Stamel, of Northampton, cheers for the Boston Red Sox Wednesday at Ye Ol' Watering Hole in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Samantha Willis, from left, Molly Block, Rich Tardy, Kevin Brown and Tom Livengood watch the Red Sox defeat the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday at Tully O'Reilly's Pub in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Samantha Willis, from left, Molly Block, Rich Tardy, Kevin Brown and Tom Livengood watch the Red Sox defeat the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday at Tully O'Reilly's Pub in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Graham Immerman, from left, Danny McCormick, Emilene Rodley and Dan Bouquillon cheer for the Boston Red Sox during their win against the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series Wednesday at Ye Ol' Watering Hole in Northampton. In the background are Tess Lauren and Sasha Klare-Ayvazian.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Rich Tardy, from left, Kevin Brown, Tom Livengood, Jill Cunningham and Paul McMenimen celebrate the Boston Red Sox' win against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday at Tully O'Reilly's Pub in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Suzanne McColgan hugs Brad Ward Wednesday at Tully O'Reilly's Pub in Northampton after the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Will Stamel, of Northampton, cheers for the Boston Red Sox Wednesday at Ye Ol' Watering Hole in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Samantha Willis, from left, Molly Block, Rich Tardy, Kevin Brown and Tom Livengood watch the Red Sox defeat the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday at Tully O'Reilly's Pub in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

Before Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, I started brainstorming column ideas for a Bruins win or loss.

I remember thinking if the Bruins won, and of course they did, that it would be a long time before New England could find magic again in a postseason run by one of our four professional sports teams.

If you’d bought a world champions T-shirt from the last time the Red Sox, Patriots or Celtics had raised a banner, there was a good chance it not only still fit, but the lettering hadn’t started flaking off in the laundry. There would still be passion and fervent interest, but I was convinced that the magic that comes with experiencing your team’s title for the first time would be gone.

I was wrong.

Even if the Red Sox had lost the World Series, this would have been a special run, one that brought most of the recently jaded back under the wide umbrella. The sellout streak probably won’t reboot, but good seats are going to be a lot harder to come by.

It’s not just that the Red Sox are good again, although that certainly fuels this. If the trade with the Dodgers had never happened and somehow Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett played well this year with Bobby Valentine still at the helm, people would have still been interested. The chance at a title and to lord it over Yankee fan friends would have been enough to reclaim the interest.

But Gonzalez’s complaints about too many Sunday night games, Carl Crawford’s gripes about too much attention and Beckett and Valentine’s general repugnance would have kept people from full emotional investment. Fans would have rooted for the uniform much more than the guys wearing it.

To truly win back the hearts of fans jilted by the aloof, arrogant players, and loathsome former manager, the Red Sox needed not just a good team, but a likable, fun group.

They needed this team.

Some of it was circumstance. This group’s embrace of their place in the community after the marathon bombings gave people a window into their character that might never have been visible had the tragedy never happened. But it made us believe that this was a team that didn’t just wear Boston on the front of its road uniforms. They felt like part of the community. The slogan “Boston Strong” didn’t originate from the Red Sox, but they certainly popularized its use.

It’s possible Gonzalez, Crawford, etc., would have been great ambassadors for the city too given the chance, but it’s hard to picture them wholeheartedly immersing themselves the way newcomers Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Ryan Dempster did. These guys had barely been on the team a month, but there they were representing a region that couldn’t recognize them out of uniform or pronounce Uehara yet.

But it was more than that. Despite a still hefty payroll, the Red Sox felt like an underdog again, which isn’t easy to do in Boston. Almost every baseball expert picked them at or near the bottom of what appeared to be a loaded American League East. But the infusion of new blood mixed with the resurgence of Jon Lester, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, John Lackey and Jacoby Ellsbury worked better than anyone could have hoped.

Even more importantly for recapturing the fan base’s imagination, the players seemed to be enjoying the ride as much as the people watching. Most fans think being a professional athlete is the greatest life in the world. When the players they’re watching seem to embody that belief, the fans appreciate them that much more.

The joy of the players on the field was evident all year and magnified throughout the postseason. They seemed to realize they were on a magical ride.

No New England team in any sport will ever be as beloved as the 2004 squad that rewarded decades of fan devotion, but the 2013 Red Sox will hold a special place as the team that helped bring that devotion back.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — It was a night to remember. Two years removed from the worst regular season collapse followed by a 69-93 season, the Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 Wednesday to clinch their eighth World Series championship, and third in the past decade. The 2013 Red Sox will go down as one of the greatest teams of …

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