WE HERE IN THE GREAT COMMONWEALTH of Massachusetts are certain that we occupy prime real estate at the center of the universe. (How else to explain our property valuations?) Our ears burn Sox Nation red, Blue State blue, and Harvard crimson when the rest of the country says it isn’t so. Well, this year it was.
In 2012, we nearly exported a former governor to the White House (who had signed into law the state health care system that we had already successfully exported). We celebrated the oldest active ballpark in Major League Baseball, even as we jeered the most dysfunctional team in recent memory to play on its field. We rekindled interest in the largest art heist in history. We told you that Jesus might have had a wife, and we put an end to the miraculous run of a football star who made piety a nationwide craze. Our scandals and successes, our tragedies and triumphs, even our babies — welcome, Vivian (Bundchen) Brady — made national headlines. And if you still don’t believe us, we also grew the biggest biceps, and we weren’t afraid to flex them.
For better and for worse, this year Massachusetts really did have it all.
It was a sign of things to come when Mitt Romney, who could have justifiably chosen among four other states for his political headquarters, selected the most Boston of neighborhoods, the North End. He kept talking about us throughout his run for the presidency, vowing to repeal the national health care law inspired by the one he approved for the state and opposing same-sex marriages, which became law while he was governor. A Romney aide inadvertently coined the first buzzwords of the general election race — Etch a Sketch — and the candidate was caught uttering the words — “47 percent” — that will go down in electoral history as one of the most game-changing ratios ever spoken. We ate up every word of it and then turned out in record numbers to hand Romney a 23-point trouncing in his own state.
Our US Senate race, much closer than expected, was one of the most closely watched — and most expensive — in the country. The challenger, Elizabeth Warren, vowed to give her all for the little guy against “big oil, millionaires, and billionaires.” But she got in trouble when her claim of Native American heritage turned out to be only about 1/32d true. The incumbent, Scott Brown, promised to be more bipartisan than anyone. But then he found himself backtracking when he boasted that he was reaching across the aisle on a regular basis to the president, the State Department, diplomats, kings, and queens. A Massachusetts native loomed large in the race: Grover Norquist, whose pledge not to raise taxes Brown signed. Warren said she would not sign, and she won.
Governor Deval Patrick campaigned for President Obama like a man auditioning for a 2016 run for the White House, but ended the year defending missteps in his own house. Because a state chemist allegedly falsified drug test results , tens of thousands of convictions will need to be retried, which could cost us $332 million — or something close to the price of a one-way commuter rail trip in from Worcester after a massive fare hike was implemented. The state highway safety director resigned after the Globe reported that her experience in the field amounted to a long history of unsafe driving. Lax state oversight may have contributed to a meningitis outbreak linked to a Framingham pharmacy that has killed more than 30 people across the country and sickened more than 400. And a registered sex offender was arrested and charged with 100 counts of sexual abuse of children in his care, some as young as 8 days old.
Massachusetts also had a hand in a far less tragic and disturbing disgrace that nevertheless made waves from here to Kandahar. Former CIA director David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell may have carried on their affair in Afghanistan and Washington, but they first locked eyes in that steamy crimson-walled hotbed of sex scandals, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. It was April 2006; he was a 53-year-old three-star general and she was a 33-year-old graduate student looking for help on a research project. Theirs was a match made in TMZ heaven.
Not everything that came from Harvard was pure tabloid fodder. Normally news of a Nobel Prize would be enough to define a year for a college, but economist Alvin Roth’s award (hey, congrats!) was overshadowed by, well, Jesus. Harvard researcher Karen L. King shook the Christian world by finding a papyrus fragment she said suggested that Jesus had once been married. (King did not say whether Jesus monopolized the TV remote control or whether his wife made him watch The Notebook. ) Alas, the Vatican quickly denounced the document as “a clumsy forgery.” Continued...