A Year in Review: The Most Memorable Stories of 2019

It was a year full of strange omens (seagull rat, a sign of unnatural times if ever there was one) and upheaval (are we a gambling town now?).

tuuka rask boston bruins

Photo via AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

The Bruins … Almost Get There.

This one hurt. Like all great and truly crushing defeats, the Bruins’ loss to the St. Louis Blues in seven games for the Stanley Cup was a prolonged, hope-ridden reversal of what had seemed going in to be an inevitable victory. After all, the Bs had swept the Carolina Hurricanes in four in the Eastern Conference Finals. They won the first game of the series, lost one and then came roaring back to lead 2-1. And then, after two hard losses, the final game was at home—a theoretical advantage that, in the end, just meant that fans had to watch as the Blues scored first and went on to win 4-1. “It’s an empty feeling,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy after the loss. “It’s a long year. Someone had to win and someone had to lose and we came out on the wrong side of it. It’s not the way you picture it. It’s as simple as that.” Well, Bruce, heartbreak may be simple, but it still stings like hell.

Wahlburgers Ends

The end of this heartwarming show about brothers Mark, Donnie, and Paul Wahlberg, burgers, and Dorchester accents was bittersweet. The Wahlbergs are among the most Boston of all celebrities, and through Wahlburgers we followed them (and their mom, Alma) from the opening of their first restaurant in Hingham through the establishment of a burger empire. We also followed them on a journey of the heart, apparently. “The best part is that it’s rebuilt our family,” Donnie told Entertainment Tonight. As a side note, the show ran on A&E for 10 seasons in five years, and therefore stands as proof that time is accelerating in disturbing ways. Anyway, if you’re feeling nostalgic, you can always go get a burger.

The Vape Ban

Turns out all of that hysteria around whether vaping was safe may not have been completely off the mark. After a still-mysterious lung illness started putting people into the hospital—and worse—Gov. Charlie Baker put his foot down and stopped all vape sales in the state. Chaos ensued. People were mad. They drove to New Hampshire, the New Jersey of New England, to get their fix. And then, three months later, it was over. Do we have a much clearer idea of what, exactly, was causing the injuries to people’s lungs? Not really, but it’s over now anyway. A silver lining here is that we can assume that former Attorney General and onetime Baker opponent Martha Coakley will be earning whatever she was paid to join JUUL’s government affairs team.

Photo via AP Photo/Steven Senne

Encore Opens! Then Immediately Falters.

In the runup to the opening of the Encore Casino in Everett, Bostonians grappled with some pretty heavy questions. First, was the deal to bring Steve Wynn (pre-#metoo revelations) in to open the casino somehow suspect? Has Boston become the kind of town that will frequent a glittering colossus like the Encore? Will people really go to Everett? Seriously existential stuff. The opening brought tens of thousands in to gawk, wander, try their luck and lose a bit of money. Then, things went downhill, answering at least a few of those preceding questions in the negative. It lost $41.7 million in its first quarter. Its president stepped down in October. After all the hoopla, it’s far from clear what the future holds for the casino. Anyone want to bet on what happens next?

Doyle’s in JP Closed

We didn’t see this coming, but maybe we should have. After all, earlier this year we had Plough & Stars co-owner Gabriel O’Malley waxing in our pages about the slow death of the institution of the beloved local pub in this city. Rents are rising, people are drinking less, and the city is worse for it. The loss of Doyle’s, though, was a particularly bitter one. A longtime hub of progressive politics over its 137-year history, Doyle’s was like a museum that you could drink in, which is probably the best kind of museum. Its walls were crowded with black and white photos of Boston politicians. In the end, it came down to economics. “It’s sad,” said Doyle’s owner Gerry Burke Jr., speaking to the Globe. “The real estate in JP is as high as it’s going to get and I can’t afford to stay here any more.” What can we say, Doyle’s? You were here for so long, but you were gone far too soon.

Everyone Decided to Run for President

Are you, or have you ever been, a Massachusetts politician? If so, chances are you at least considered joining the vast field of candidates vying for a presidential nomination. There are the candidates we knew all along were inevitably going to run, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was unofficially (but very obviously) running for the Democratic nomination all along through her Senate campaign. Then there are those like former Gov. Bill Weld, who joined the race on the other side of the ticket as a long-shot Republican challenger, resuming his role as a protest candidate after running on the Libertarian ticket in 2016. And who can forget Rep. Seth Moulton, who had been anointed the next big thing in the Democratic party before the 2018 midterms launched a whole new group of next big things, and called it quits about four months into his campaign, when it became clear he was no longer the man of the moment. Finally, there’s the quixotic campaign of former Gov. Deval Patrick, who announced late to cheers from the fans in the luxury boxes and the people who think a candidate with Texaco, Bain, and a subprime mortgage company on his résumé was what was missing from the field. Did we miss anyone? It’s so hard to keep track.

Photo courtesy of LandVest via coldwellbankerhomes.com

The Obamas Buy a House on the Vineyard

Kennedy-esque has long been a descriptor for the Obamas, but this takes it to another level. This year, the former (sob) first family closed on an $11.5 million deal to buy a 29.3 acre Martha’s Vineyard estate from Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, located near the Edgartown Great Pond. The Obamas apparently opted not to buy Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s old place, which was advertised for sale for a cool $65 million this summer, but that probably would have been too on the nose anyway.

The Varsity Blues College Cheating Scandal Comes to Boston

Everyone knows that getting into college is a racket, but, well, it’s not supposed to be an actual conspiracy. When the story of merely-wealthy families going to elaborate lengths to get their kids into schools broke, it was so ludicrous, it was hard to take seriously. Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were hauled into a Boston court, giving this story glitz on top of schadenfreude. The real local gem, though, was the story of the Harvard fencing coach who just happened to sell his house in Needham in 2016 for roughly twice its value—a deal so good a town assessor reportedly wrote “makes no sense” in his notes on the sale—as part of a complicated web of transactions with a parent whose son was a fencer with eyes on Harvard. What did we learn at the end of all this? Mostly that, as is so often true in America, the real crime here was not being rich enough to donate a building and get your mediocre kid into their top school like a real plutocrat.

That EEE Outbreak

It’s been a while since we’ve had a scare over a mosquito-borne illness here, but the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) outbreak was a doozy. Striking in August, this rare and potentially fatal illness put an immediate damper on end of summer fun. In certain parts of the state, risk of contracting it was deemed “critical” around Labor Day. A dozen cases resulted in four deaths, and cast a pall over outdoor activities and even Halloween, as schools canceled or postponed activities scheduled around sunset. Once the cold weather came and the mosquitoes died, fears subsided. At least that’s one reason to be glad it’s freezing out.

Photo via AP Photo/Steven Senne, File

Rachael Rollins Came and Shook Up the DA’s Office

It’s safe to say that Rachael Rollins doesn’t do much of anything quietly. The progressive, fearless DA took office at the beginning of this year promising to not prosecute minor offenses that she argues unnecessarily hook people into the criminal justice system and send their lives into downward spirals. When the governor’s office took a swing at her, she immediately got personal, and told supporters, “This is an example of when someone slaps you in the face and thinks you’re going to turn away and cry, and you take your earrings off, roundhouse-kick them dead in the face.” When a Baker appointed judge decided to ignore Rollins not to prosecute a protester, she went to the mat over that, too. In short, Rollins has come in like a wrecking ball for the status quo—and it’s been wonderful to see.

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