I wasn’t going to write this post today for two main reasons. One, I lost the notebook with my outline. I didn’t used to outline my posts, but I can be very forgetful (see: missing notebook) and there’s nothing more frustrating than staring at a blank page knowing you had ideas, or staring at a finished product and knowing it could have been much better than the pile of shit you slapped together. (Ed. Note: this is NOT a pile of shit. Keep reading!). The second reason was when getting ready for work I pulled something in my back, collapsed in a pile of screaming agony and am still in pretty intense pain as I type. But then I told myself that unlike Josh Beckett, I can play through it and not be an overweight insufferable jackass…
Whenever I tell people that I’m a Red Sox fan I immediately see the condemnation in their face. Not the condemnation that says that person is a Yankees fan, or a Rays fan (the latter is a joke, Rays fans are a myth like Noah’s Ark or Brad Boyes’ 40 goal season), but the condemnation that says I must be a bandwagon fan, one of those post-2004 assholes who claimed the Red Sox as their own simply because winning is more fun than losing and it’s easy to make fun of A-rod. I loathe bandwagon fans more than I loathe terrorists (some terrorists; bandwagoners would go ahead of Al-Qaeda but below the 1980’s IRA in my power rankings) and if I were the decider over such issues I would move all bandwagoners to Florida - the Mecca of such wretched souls - and give them a TV package that only gets Royals, Blue Jackets, Bobcats and University of Indiana football for all of eternity.
Bandwagon fans are the Mississippians of sports fans.
Anyway, as a tot in the early '90s I found myself able to choose who would be my baseball team, an option that had not been afforded to me in football and hockey. With a similar opportunity my friends chose teams like the Indians, Blue Jays, Pirates, teams that were merely hours away from home, in many cases televised locally, and more importantly played some of the best baseball in the league. I cheered for these teams myself until I watched Ken Burns’ “Baseball” on PBS. Now in hindsight, “Baseball” is nothing but propaganda designed to push the viewer towards the Red Sox - or Yankees - corner, but that, coupled with my grandfather being a Boston fan, did the trick and I became one of those “tortured Red Sox fans.”
That term means something entirely different than it used to. For my grandfather, it meant watch Dent’s home run or Wilson’s dribbler down first. For me, it meant a watching Boone’s home run in a room full of Yankee fans, heading out to get shitfaced on Crystal Palace, Keystone Light and rage, coming back to my dorm the next morning to see my AIM away message was still “5 OUTS…”. But now, it means reconciling your love for the Red Sox through childhood, your teens, college, and today with the fact you share that love with a bunch of meatheads who believe Tedy Bruschi could kill Seal Team 6 and that Sam Adams counts as a microbrew, and who have diligently worshiped the Bruins ... since April 2011. The last decade has made Boston fans insufferable and it sucks to have your team loyalty and you as a fan tainted by such douchebaggery, and to share your rooting interest with the guy that rained homosexual slurs at you for two hours in TD Garden just because you paired your Sox hat with a Mogilny jersey.
I’d like to think any true Red Sox fan saw this coming a mile away. Did anyone who either watched John Lackey or owned him in fantasy really think he was the answer when Schilling and Pedro moved on? 2007 may have reaffirmed to the front office that they had the formula to success but that title may have been a little more luck than being head and shoulders above the rest of the league. The idea that CC Sabathia and Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona) would bring their “C” games a win away from the World Series seems laughable today (maybe not so much w/ Hernandez/Carmona), but it happened in back-to-back games of the ALCS. The Rockies got the wild card in a one-game playoff thanks to a very questionable call in extra innings, were rightfully swept in the World Series by Boston, and wouldn’t have fared any better against the Indians.
The point is that the real ills are still there and we’re seeing them continue. Gonzalez may ultimately not be a major market player - someone better suited in San Diego where he can be blissfully removed from national television for his career. Youk might not be a leader - someone better suited to lead a “25 guys, 25 cabs” Sox team from the 60's than some lovable idiot reincarnation of 2004. Valentine may be better off cracking jokes about Japanese culture from the press box than trying to handle a pitching staff already held together with two hands and duct tape. Marlon Byrd has a problem with being good at hitting a baseball. Josh Beckett is an asshole. If you’re relying on Vicente Padilla and Aaron Cook to do anything other than actually set themselves on fire while on the mound, your expectations, not their play, is the problem.
Sure there are positives - Will Middlebrooks, the ageless David Ortiz, the four game winning streak among them - but I’m just not buying it. Through long stretches of this season the Sox haven’t looked any better than the worst team in the league, like some real-life montage from a sports movie where the team is chucking the ball into the dugout, the pitcher’s getting shelled and their superstar is mired in an unfathomable slump. At least those teams are usually filled with lovable characters.
Seasons like this are the natural progression of sports, when a team is holding onto its past, attempting to repackage it in a substandard wrapper, caught between what they once were and what they will be. We saw it in the final years of the Kelly-Thomas-Reed Bills teams, or in the '02-'04 (and to a lesser extent '08-'09) Sabres teams, or this season's Mavericks, having won a title at the back end of their window. And now we’re seeing it with the Red Sox, who have chosen to sign players they don’t need, scapegoat those who are not at fault, and give the press and the ignorant fan base red herrings through which to channel their anger and frustration.
My advice to other Red Sox fans: enjoy it! The team has a fundamental flaw (lack of unity) that isn’t going to be fixed this season, barring a Rachel Phelps style “win the whole fucking thing” plotline, and other major flaws (pitching, hitting) that are unlikely to be corrected to the extent needed for them to make the playoffs. So, laugh when Beckett lets in seven through three innings, or when Gonzalez strikes out swing at a fall at his feet with the bases loaded, or when Bobby V looks like he wants to murder anyone who told him this was a solid career decision. Talk about how terrible of a signing Carl Crawford was, or how the Bailey trade isn’t going to work out, or how Youkilis needs to hang it up. If anything, do it to pre-empt the Yankee fans and the rest of the Red Sox haters who group us in with the pricks who inundated twitter with racial slurs after Joel Ward won game 7 for the Caps. Do it because you laugh when people trip over the sidewalk, or even because from September-January the entire Boston region roots for fucking Tom Brady. Justify it however you can but, please, enjoy the ineptitude and the hilarity of unencumbered failure, because folks…
It’s not getting any better.
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