If you think projecting what’s going to happen next week or even in the year ahead is a difficult enterprise for sports pundits, try holding them accountable for what they expect will unfold over the coming decade.

The resetting of a zero at the end of our Anno Domini counter this Wednesday means we’re subject to no shortage of retrospectives about the music, movies, politics and sports – good, bad and ugly – for the 3,600-or-so days in our rear-view mirror.

In that spirit of reminiscence, I wondered what it might be like to hop in a time machine to Dec. 31, 2009, pretend we have MRI vision, and see what might have been lurking in the weary, extreme mind of a small-town New England sports columnist at that moment.

How much of that fearlessness and foolishness came true in the years of fluctuating weight, hair loss and 401{k} foibles that followed?

Well, see for yourself …

•Tom Brady is 32, or roughly the age when even the elite NFL quarterbacks start to show statistical decline and the wear-and-tear from a decade of hard hits. After major knee and ankle injuries in consecutive seasons, he may never be the same.

It is probably time for the Patriots to at least consider grooming a successor – perhaps Tim Tebow or Jimmy Clausen – from the NFL draft in April.

Recent trends show that the big three from the draft class of 2004, namely Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, are poised to dominate the coming decade. And the annual exodus of big-money free agents to rival teams has slowly but surely eroded the talent base from the Patriots’ run of three Lombardi trophies in four years, an anomaly we can safely assume shall never be repeated in the salary cap era.

• Well, we’re back to reality in the American League East. The Angels’ three-game sweep of the Red Sox in the American League Division Series, coupled with title No. 27 for the Evil Empire two weeks later, make it abundantly cleat we’re back where it all started at the turn of the century.

With Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Johnny Damon locked in and Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and C,,C, Sabathia primed to torture us until they’re 50, what’s a Boston sympathizer to do but embrace those two titles from heaven and prepare for another 10, 20 or 86 years of abject misery?

Plus, you can bet David Price and the Tampa Ray Rays aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. It appears our lot is to hope we can steal that wild card every once in a while, and be thankful we don’t live a completely hopeless, no-chance-in-hell existence like Cubs, Royals and Astros fans.

• Is there any crueler fate in New England sports fandom than dying a quick death with the Bruins every spring? The pain of a seven-game loss to Carolina in the Eastern Conference semifinals this past May was magnified only by the reality that the B’s hadn’t been that far since the same winter as the Clinton impeachment hearings. I guess at least we can be thankful we’ll probably never experience the latter again.

The bottom line is that the black-and-gold haven’t been to the Stanley Cup finals since their neighborhood was known as the Adams Division, and it’s crystal clear there will be no stopping Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the next 10 years, and maybe longer.

As head coach, can’t-win-the-big-one Claude Julien is the perfect match for team management that is content to make a token appearance in the first or second round of the playoffs every year. In a region that suddenly became synonymous with championships in recent years, you can be certain the B’s will continue to live vicariously through their aging, refugee heroes that get a chance to sip from Lord Stanley’s chalice elsewhere.

• Safe to say the Celtics are back where they belong on top of the NBA. After they make it two titles out of three at the Lakers’ expense in the spring, surely the only thing to do will be draw up lifetime contracts for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo and make sure they never get away. Particularly Rondo, who is obviously the youngest of the bunch and well on his way to Springfield as the preeminent point guard of his generation.

Not sure about all that? OK, at least be thankful Doc Rivers will lead the C’s for as long as he sees fit. While everyone else turns to recycled coaches, puppets to pussyfoot around their star players, or unprepared bumpkins from the college level, at least Boston is built around a proven leader for the long haul.

• Pretty amazing that it only took Nick Saban three years to rebuild Alabama into a college football championship outfit, but don’t get too nostalgic. It’s only a matter of time before another marquee opportunity – perhaps Notre Dame, or maybe the Cowboys or Redskins if the unfinished business of the NFL and an eight-figure contract are equally appealing – puts itself in line with Saban’s perpetual wanderlust.

Not to mention that Florida, USC and Texas are simply located in more fertile recruiting grounds right now. Players in those states don’t get all daydreamy when they hear the name Bear Bryant or some other commercialized catch phrase that immediately makes them think about Alabama. It’s laughable to think of those three powerhouse programs fading away anytime soon.

• The growth of high school football in Maine is a runaway train that can’t be stopped. The number of schools with thriving varsity programs grew by 33 percent during the ’90 and ’00 decades. Over the next 10 years, surely you’ll see even more schools adopt this unassailable sport with the unrivaled ability to galvanize a community. The only way I’d be able to see a healthier schoolboy gridiron scenario is if I made like Saban and escaped to SEC country, and I can’t imagine that happening anytime soon.

Kalle Oakes spent part of four different decades in the Sun Journal sports department from 1989 to 2016. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. Stay in touch with him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @oaksie72.


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