Recent developments in pro sports have made clear an obvious connection between the Boston metropolitan area and the San Francisco metropolitan area. Most obviously, neither region had won a World Series championship in decades, but suddenly with the advent of the PED era in Major League Baseball, each team region suddenly saw a spike in success and profit.
Toss in the recent football success for the New England Patriots, and it’s even more obvious how connected these two cities have become in the last two decades. Insecure and inept compared to regional rivals in larger metro areas to the south (New York and Los Angeles, respectively), Boston and San Francisco have achieved success that has leveled some playing fields—but not without a lot of controversy and asterisks.
Let’s start with the San Francisco 49ers: Their entire run of dominant NFL success was fueled by both Mafia money and a willingness to break league rules. The DeBartolo family ties to organized crime are no secret. It is well documented, actually, and it also once kept MLB from letting the family (pun not intended) buy the Chicago White Sox. The team won five Super Bowls from 1981-1994, and after the franchise had never won much of anything from its birth in 1946, all that changed with DeBartolo’s money behind the team. Since he was forced out by the NFL for his crooked business dealings, the 49ers have not won the Super Bowl.
Compare that to the Patriots: The team had sporadic success until Bill Belichick showed up, and now between “Spygate” and “Deflategate”, etc., there are distinct issues with this team’s five Super Bowl wins between 2001-2016. When Belichick retires and takes his suspect methods with him, you can bet the New England organization will fall right back into the abyss from whence it came—just like the 49ers reverted to their prior status without DeBartolo.
It’s an easy connection to make between the 49ers and the Patriots: Unable to win on the level, each organization basically corrupted itself in order to succeed. Now, to baseball. Neither Red Sox nor the Giants had won the World Series in a long time when the PED era was ushered in by then-MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Boston’s drought famously extended back to the Babe Ruth Era, while San Francisco hadn’t won much of anything since leaving the Polo Grounds in New York.
Enter performance-enhancing drugs: The Red Sox won three World Series (2004, 2007, 2013) behind the juiced bats of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, while the Giants used the profits from Barry Bonds’ exploits to fund three championships (2010, 2012, 2014) while getting suspiciously impressive performances in key situations from a number of washed-up players that no one else in MLB wanted.
Suddenly, both teams that had played second fiddle to more successful franchises just south were among the most profitable and successful in the league. Selig did little to stop the flow of PEDs into his sport, and the Boston and S.F. franchises were the primary beneficiaries of this finances-first MLB policy. Since the BALCO investigation blew up in 2003, these two teams have combined to win six World Series titles in 13 seasons after winning none in their prior 140 seasons (1919-2003 for Boston, 1955-2009 for San Francisco).
It’s kind of sad when you think about: Cities, fans and organizations in both Boston and San Francisco were willing to set aside honesty and integrity simply to not feel inferior any more to their rivals in New York and Los Angeles. Both Boston and San Francisco have earned longterm sociopolitical reputations for being “liberal” and progressive, but clearly, both cities enabled and benefitted by cheating and dishonest choices in pro sports.
Note: While Boston probably outright cheated to win Patriots and Red Sox glory, the 49ers and the Giants merely disregarded ethics and morality to achieve their success. It’s up to you, the reader, to decide whether or not there is a difference between breaking rules and using tainted money to buy success. Both represent a lack of integrity, although there are always shades of gray to consider.