Friday, October 17, 2008

Would the real Red Sox fans please stand up

[Globe photo/Jim Davis]

Yesterday at work, I got into an “argument” with a guy that calls himself a lifelong Red Sox fan. He’s a guy that has followed the Sox through thick and thin. His uncle, a former sportswriter, was a personal friend of Ted Williams (aka, Teddy Ballgame) and he would bring his young nephew to countless games.

Like many fans of Boston’s favorite team, something’s happened to Joe (not his real name, but that name is hot now). After their first World Series win in 2004 (breaking Dan Shaughnessy’s calling card and meal ticket, the Curse of the Bambino), I noticed something changing with Red Sox fans. The fatalism and perpetual despair was gone, now replaced with something else. It got worse after the 2007 Series win. A sense of entitlement settled in. It’s ugly in those operating on the taxpayer’s dime, and also ugly in baseball fans, particularly those that used to root for their team just because the Sox were their team.

Joe was in a funk yesterday afternoon. When I asked him about the game that night, he said, “It’s over.”

“It’s over?” I asked. “What do you mean?”

“This year’s team is pathetic,” Joe said.

No amount of fact could talk Joe down from his self-imposed back-turning on his beloved Sox. It didn’t matter that the team was banged up and hindered with injuries. Key members of the club (Mike Lowell) were gone for the season. One of baseball’s top pitchers (Josh Beckett) is missing a yard off his fastball and has valiantly been trying to get by on guile and heart his past two starts. Jon Lester, who has been Mr. Automatic the past two months, had his worst start of the season, and it happened to come in Game 3. Ortiz and Varitek have been automatic outs in the Red Sox lineup.

My point to Joe was that the Sox, if they could win Game 5 and send this thing back to Tampa, would put pressure on a young team that’s never felt late Series postseason pressure. You saw how they reacted to their first exposure to ALCS pressure in Game 1. They were tight. The past few nights, they loosened up and became a free-swinging wrecking crew, making mincemeat of the Red Sox starting pitching.

While I didn’t predict a Sox win in talking with Joe, I did indicate that I thought Dice-K would handcuff the Rays hitters. The scenario didn’t roll forth as I envisioned. By the end of three innings, even I had my doubts about the 2008 season. After three, it was 5-0, and after four, Matzusaka was done.

Two good innings from Okajima stemmed the tide, but Delcarmen yielded two more on an Upton double. Francona had to bring Jonathan Papelbon in early to try to keep the Rays at bay, hoping for a miracle. Ortiz gave those of us stupid enough to still be awake, hope. Drew made it worth it when he singled in Youk with two outs.

It was nice to hear “Dirty Water” one more time, and send the Series back to Tampa Bay, with the Sox alive for yet another day.

Will the Sox win it all? I don't know, but this I do know this. Beckett won't pitch a third "stinker." If it gets to Game 7, all bets are off, and I like Lester in that one, also.

I promise I won't rub Joe's nose in it, this morning when I see him at work.


Eve Channing said...

Jim, thoughtful piece. I was hoping you were going to tie the current fear and trepidation of the Pink Hat fan to the fear and trepidation of today's American...waiting for the "Gub-ment" to step in and save the day, versus doing what they need to do. Step up to the plate, dig in, and play ball.

Have hope, there are still some "Patriots" left...let's hope there's enough of us to field a team.

Jim said...

Sorry. This was the best I could come up with pre-work. I also had to write something other than political banter, which I keep going back to the well for.

I do hope to tie together some threads on leadership, possibly this w/e. We'll see.

Go Sox!

Mark LaFlamme said...

Oh, my word, I could not agree more. My estimate is that 75 percent of these "sox fans" were in bed or on the drive home from Fenway when Boston erupted. They gave up by the fourth inning, that 75 percent, if not sooner. It's disgusting. The Sox may deserve this renewed chance at bliss, but the bulk of their fans do not.

Go Royals.

Jim said...

There's an element of bliss following a team before the bandwagon gets stuffed with pseudo-fans.

Take your beloved Royals. To wear their colors is based entirely on something other than their last WS win, or being the latest baseball flavor of the month.

Once the genie's out of the bottle, you can't put him/her back.

I muse what a 15+ run of futility would do to RSN ala the KC Royals? It would thin it out that's for sure.

When you went to KC this summer, who did you find the fan base to be? Were they people who had been with them since the Brett/McRae/Pinella days?

Mark LaFlamme said...

There were a lot of Brett, Otis, McCrage jerseys out there, sure. But there were also a ton sporting jerseys bearing the names of current players.
The fan base seems to be comprised of people just like me, still suffering from a long bleak stretch but unwilling to throw their hands up.
And here's another thing. If you go to a Sox game, you will find that a large segment of the crowd is there for reasons unrelated to the game. They do everything but watch what's happening on the field. They wear all the Sox garb, but they couldn't name one position player. They cheer when things are going well, but only as some sort of social ritual.
At the KC game, it seemed like everyone was there for baseball. I wandered around striking up conversations and everyone I met could tell you what a great rooking year Aviles was having or discuss at length the conundrum at first base. Very cool. I love true baseball fans. Hate the Pink Hats.

weasel said...

Very cogent stuff. However, I'd argue that "It’s over..... “This year’s team is pathetic” sounded like born-to-it Sox fans every year prior to 2004 (and in that group I include my wife with her mint Jody Reed cards...).