I haven’t been alive long enough to know how heartbreaking the life of a New England sports fan can be.

I wasn’t old enough to watch the Patriots’ humiliating Super Bowl loss in 1986 or the Red Sox’ agonizing World Series loss nine months later.

I have felt the sting of New England sports, though.

I listened to the radio in 1990 as Oakland swept the Red Sox out of the playoffs.

I saw Desmond Howard’s kickoff return bury the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.

I remember the Red Sox’ recent playoff rivalry with Cleveland all too well. I also remember their demoralizing loss to the Yankees when they finally got past Cleveland.

I remember watching the Bruins and Celtics, but most of the memories are just fuzzy images of disappointment.

I have been a diehard Red Sox fan and a devoted Patriots follower for a dozen years. I have rooted faithfully for the Bruins and Celtics for 10 years. None of the four teams has ever left me feeling happy at the end of a season.

The Red Sox set the tone for more of the same when the team imploded in August. Then Arizona defeated the Yankees in the World Series, and suddenly everything wasn’t set in stone.

The Red Sox made some off-season moves that gave fans high hopes for next year. A core of Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra should combine with the new acquisitions to make a serious playoff push.

The Celtics are somehow second in their division with only two players. Like the Patriots, they play in the weaker conference in which only one team is playing well.

The streaky Bruins are led by a balanced scoring attack, an emotional fighter and an unconventional goalie. Joe Thornton, the No. 1 pick in 1997, leads the league with 55 points and is one of four Bruins with at least 20 goals. P.J. Stock’s fights have lit a fire in the Bruins and they seem poised for a playoff run behind the clutch goaltending of Byron Dafoe.

The Patriots are obviously the biggest surprise in New England this year.

I expected them to compete for a top five draft pick and the first two games did nothing to change my mind, but then they started winning.

Bill Belichick decided to stick with Tom Brady at quarterback when Drew Bledsoe was healthy. Brady responded by winning the final six games and earning the Patriots an unexpected AFC East title and a first-round bye.

The Patriots certainly got some help from the officials against the Raiders, but the Patriots of old would never have even gotten to that position and they certainly wouldn’t have made that drive in overtime.

I felt good about the team going into Pittsburgh and I was deliriously happy when they went up 21-3. But Pittsburgh stormed back and I started to have visions of old Patriots’ games. Games when they rolled up big leads and then sat back to protect said lead, only to end up with a loss. They never gave up the lead, though ? and now they’re in the Super Bowl.

Normally, I would be hoping for a New England win in the Super Bowl, but not really expecting it. This year is different. There is something about this team. I expect the Super Bowl to be a close game that they could win.

The old patterns in New England sports don’t seem to be holding this year, and the fans couldn’t be happier.

Jacobs can be reached at bjacobs@campustimes.org.

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