Sorry for the delay on Part Two of this story of Living Inside Enemy Lines, but for some reason my Tumblr account was not working. For those just joining us, my name is Matthew Bassin and I am a lifelong Los Angeles Laker and Detroit Piston fan, and I have currently lived and worked in the city of Boston for the last 15 months.
And being a Laker and Piston fan means hating one team and city more than anyone else, Boston.
Now that you’re caught up, let’s get to what it means to live in this city.
It means being surrounded by some of the most obnoxious, yet knowledgeable sports fans in the country. They are also a sky-is-falling fanbase.
I have had the privalege of living in some great sports towns (Detroit and now Boston), some admittedly not-great sports towns (Santa Barbara and Tucson), and some towns that think they are great sports towns but need some work (San Diego and Atlanta).
To be fair to Atlanta, they are a good sports town, but that sport is college football, er…. SEC football (and Georgia Tech). And unless it’s that time of year, the city just kind of coasts around their sports teams.
In Boston, like all cities, there is one clear favorite team, one that gets talked about all year long. You’d think that team would be the Patriots for their decade-plus run of fantastic regular seasons, not to mention three Super Bowls and four appearances. Or maybe the Celtics for winning their NBA-leading 17th Championship in 2008 and getting within the 4th quarter of Game 7 of winning it again in 2010. Or maybe even the Bruins, who ended a 39-year drought by hoisting the Stanley Cup this past June.
But no, it’s far and away the Boston Red Sox. Now, I don’t know how this city treated the Sox during their 86-year dry-spell, but the way this city lived and died with them last summer was something to behold.
First, it was the slow start in April, where most of the population had enough common sense to realize it’s a 162-game season and to not panic. However there were the people who thought this team was dead already because they were trailing the hated New York Yankees.
Then came the months leading to the All-Star break in July, where the Sox were the best team in baseball. Their pitching staff was clicking, newly acquired first-baseman Adrian Gonzalez was hitting like a man possessed, and they, as a team, could do no wrong.
The Sox stayed hot throughout the summer, building a sizeable lead in the division and a seemingly insurmountable lead in the Wild Card race. And all the talk of “Best Team EVER” was stirring on the airwaves, both radio and television. Fans were feeling great about their team, in fact, after the Bruins won the Cup there was talk of the city maybe owning all 4 major sports trophies at once! (Yes, they really did have conversations of significant length about this topic).
Then came the month of September… (If I could add dramatic music to this sentence, I would).
The month of September in 2011 is something the city of Boston will never forget. It is a month where their beloved Red Sox, who were on pace to win 100 games and contend for their 3rd World Series in seven years, went 7-20, including losing 2 out of the final 3 games to the Baltimore Orioles (whose final record was 69-93, last in the division). Then have just enough time to make their way into the dugout and watch the Tampa Bay Rays complete a 3-game sweep of the Yankees and leapfrog the Sox for the Wild Card spot.
Season over. No postseason for the “Best Team EVER”.
And then all-hell breaks loose. The rumors start flying about this player and that player. Stories of Popeyes’ Chicken and beer in the clubhouse during games. Pitchers accused of not giving it their all. The Manager accused of a drug problem.
It was chaotic, yet very entertaining.
Then Terry Francona, Arizona Graduate (ahem) and 8-year manager of the Boston Red Sox, is forced out. And I mean forced out in front of a bus that hits him and drags him under again and again. I’ve never seen anything like it. You’d think after all the success he had (2 World Series, the first two since, oh… 1918!) that they would give him a grand send-off. But no, they threw him out like garbage. Couldn’t believe he had enough character to take the high road with them.
After that, the Doogie Howser of GM-ing, aka, Theo Epstein goes to Chicago to take over as President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs. And now you have a team full of talent and no one to steer the ship. (BTW, Theo Epstein became General Manager of the Red Sox in 2002 at the age of 28. #DoogieHowser)
So now the city is in a scramble to find a new GM and a new Manager. The names that were coming up were very… unimpressive. Except for the ridiculous ones. “Well, maybe Tony LaRussa will come out of the retirement he just went into and come here… Or maybe Joe Torre will leave his cushy desk job and deal with the stress of managing the Sox…”
Yah, Joe Torre is 71 years old… He also became a legend managing the NEW YORK YANKEES… Yah, he’s gonna tarnish that image. I don’t think so.
The Sox ended up with the only guy who’s name was “big” enough to take over in Boston. Bobby Valentine. I personally loved the move. But the fanatics here, had a different opinion. And here’s the problem… The man that was perfect for this job, they just ran him out of town!
Terry Francona was a winner in Boston. He was able to deal with the egos on the team, and settle them enough to win, and win a lot. But the message turned stale, and the players stopped listening. So out with the old and in with the… new?
Spring Training hasn’t even begun, but the Sox have had equal airtime as the Patriots (about to host the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs), Bruins (currently one of, if not the hottest team in the NHL) and probably more airtime than the Celtics (whose season is finally underway, thank-you-very-much stupid NBA Lockout).
This city loves its Sox… as long as they are winning. They aren’t happy with good regular seasons anymore. They have become far too spoiled for that. The days of just enjoying how great the run has been are far behind this fanbase. Maybe they enjoyed them more in 2003, before they finally won a World Series or two… I don’t know, I wasn’t here.
But I’m here now, and as a fan of the Detroit Tigers (A team that has been god-awful until 2006 when they went to the World Series), I know what it’s like to love a team that is finally starting to play good baseball. I was ecstatic that they made the ALCS this year. Was hurt, like any good fan would be, when they were knocked out of the playoffs. But I was proud of them and the season they had. And maybe I’d have a different opinion if they were winners of a couple recent title, but I doubt it.
Like I said, in the city of Boston, the fans are obnoxious, yet knowledgeable. But you also have to deal with the ridiculous sometimes. And when it comes to the Red Sox, at least in my opinion, the fanatics here are definitely ridiculous.
There’s more to come. Still got 3 more sets of teams/fans to break down.
But you’re gonna have to wait… Hope you’ve enjoyed so far.
********Coming Soon, the Saga Continues********