Pretty Good Year, Part VIII
Tears on the sleeve of a man Don't wanna be a boy today Heard the eternal footman Bought himself a bike to race And Greg he writes letters And burns his CDs They say you were something in those formative years Hold onto nothing As fast as you can Well still pretty good year
Maybe a bright sandy beach
Is going to bring you back
May not so now you're off
You're gonna see America
Well let me tell you something about america
Pretty good year
Some things are melting now...
Epilogue: What now?
Now that the Red Sox have won the World Serious, how will it change the culture of Red Sox Nation?
Allen Barra: I said it before, and I'll say it again: the co-called "culture" of the Red Sox nation will not be determined by 2004 but how this team continues to perform. If the Yankees win next year, will Red Sox fans simply say, "I knew it, it was all a dream" or something like that? I suspect so, but we'll see.
Rich Lederer: The Red Sox Nation will grow in quantity but probably not in quality. Everyone loves a winner and there will be tens of thousands of new fans walking around the country wearing Boston hats, acting as if they were on board all along. Ten years from now, every man, woman, and child from New England will claim to have been at one of the ALCS or World Series games. At some point, the fans will no longer be the story. No more camera shots of fans shaking their heads in disbelief. That may work at Wrigley Field but it won't play at Fenway anymore.
Glenn Stout: That remains to be determined, but it will change things. Everything that made being a Red Sox fan unique, except for Fenway, is gone now, or changed. I think that after a year or two they become less attractive to casual fans and that even the hard core will be a little less urgent about them. And let's not lose sight of the fact that for all the "Moneyball" b.s.around the Red Sox under the Triumvirate, they won by following the pattern of the Yankees - spending money. I think for fans elsewhere the Red Sox just tipped the scale from being cute and cuddly to crassly dependent on cash - Yankees lite. You know, despite NY's larger payroll, the salaries actually on the field and available to play during the series between the two teams were nearly identical. --Bronx Banter, "Three Wise Men", November 5, 2004
It's been done to death by now: I'm not sure if it's a contest to see who can look smarter or more world-weary among mainstream sportswriters (with the notable exception of Bill Simmons) who have taken turns trying to top each other in their scornful assessment of the impact that a Red Sox World Series victory would have on the Red Sox as an organization and their fans. But something has compelled them, nearly to a man, to make dire predictions about the collapse of the Red Sox fan culture following a World Series victory.
Could be wishful thinking--could be they're just sick of us. That's fair enough. A way of saying, perhaps, that they are finished with the busy cottage industry that had sprung up in the national media stereotyping, smearing, and otherwise picking apart the Red Sox fan species.
But I think it also speaks to an inherent misunderstanding of what it means to be a fan of the Red Sox; to be a fan in Boston.
As I covered in Part I, being a fan in Boston means you are a fan of the Boston Red Sox, regardless of their fate, regardless of your athleticism or personal optimism or background or beliefs. It may simply be that if you didn't grow up here, weren't personally indoctrinated into the culture, you simply don't understand how ingrained it has become.
Elsewhere, it takes an enormous event--something on a par with Sept. 11, or a major natural disaster--for complete strangers to stop and speak to one another heatedly, passionately, intensely, openly, on a subject of great public interest. The kind of devastating or impossibly joyous event that makes people stop in their tracks, and smile on their brother, if only for a moment.
For what I would guess to be the vast majority of people in the country, such moments are brought to you by CNN. For the New Englander, they're usually carried by ESPN.
The Red Sox are not their record. They are not their wins, or their losses. They are a presence in the city that stands about as much chance of going away as chowdah or frosty mugs of Sam Adams. When was the last time you heard a Bostonian say something along the lines of, "I'm sicka Dunkin' Donuts. They're too successful now. They've sold out. I'm goin' to Stahbicks instead."
Or, "The Pru? Yeah, been there a while...kindar gettin' old now, dontchya think? We oughtta get rid of it."
Or possibly, "Faneuil Hall...it was cool for a couple of centuries, but now? Eh, it's lost its cachet."
Bostonians want the old Garden back. They remenisce fondly about Foxboro Stadium, medeival metal benches and all. Bostonians are people whose families have lived in the same region of land--many of them, anyway--since the first European ancestor set foot on the soil in colonial days.
Bostonians are among the least likely people to get sick of something--especially something cultural--that there are. Just look at our ballpark--opened the same day the Titanic sank, too small, too cramped, too old...but just try to suggest taking it away from us.
The song we play in victory was written in 1966. The song sung by the entire ballpark at the top of their lungs during the eighth inning of every single home game was written in 1969.
But, oh, yeah. We're going to just drop the team now that they've won. That's it. No point anymore.
There aren't too many more ways I can say this: being a Red Sox fan, at its heart, has little to do with wins and losses. Which is not to say that Sox fans are apathetic--far from it. But what keeps us coming back is as deep and unchanging as our connection to home and family--in fact, at times indistinguishable from them.
There's a misunderstanding here, something that says New England remains as provincial and inscrutable to outsiders as ever--because outsiders have concluded after long observation that the only way Bostonians and New Englanders can put up with their baseball team is if they like losing, as if there's some kind of masochistic ulterior motive, because it's simply too hokey, too trite to think, anymore, that people might have stuck with the team because they love them no matter what happens to them, period. Because loving the Red Sox is like loving your father--and maybe Dad's a drunk or he has a temper or he was never around for you, but try telling a kid not to love him, to worship him, to aspire to be just like him, especially at a young age. Coincidentally, the same young age at which most people in Boston are brought to Fenway for the first time.
Fenway Park is our Church. The Boston Red Sox are our religion, our language, and our heritage. They have been for more than a hundred years. The World Series lifts the weight--not the love.
Granted, it's only been two months so far--not even. But right now, the World Series isn't even being discussed anymore. Between Pedrogate, signing Edgar Renteria, curiosity and anxiety about Jason Varitek, as well as the 2005 pitching rotation, there have been a number of worries, but not once--not anywhere--has the idea of abandoning the Red Sox been voiced by a single person.
When you hear about the Red Sox, it's usually an exchange over an office cubicle wall, or at the counter of a convenience store, or at a bus stop or the coffee shop or wherever people make conversation, and people are still nearing blows on a daily basis about whether Pedro or the ownership were to blame; which particular aspect of losing Pedro is most objectionable; whether the Sox should've signed Renteria; whether the Sox should've signed Wells; whether or not it was Schilling who drove Pedro out of town; whether or not Schilling is a fine fellow or a grandstanding scalliwag...
And you still hear about the Red Sox. All over the place. Constantly, and not just on talk radio. People--regular people, diverse everyday people, from construction workers to IT specialists to doctors and lawyers and truck drivers and machinists and salsemen--talk about it like they talk about the weather. People still talk about it more than they ever did the Presidential election. Whether or not Terry Francona should really get the credit for winning. Whether Theo is brilliant or just lucky.
The rumbles, the shivers, the ill breezes of the next installment of the rivalry with the Yankees, are already beginning. Is that Randy Johnson riding over the horizon, ready to play black knight to Schilling's white? Why did Carl Pavano go to New York? Can you even wait until the ring ceremony? How many 2004 Sox will be left by then? Can we learn to love the new guys?
If winter is still to turn to spring this year, Boston will go on loving those Red Sox.
How could anyone think otherwise?
Did it occur to no one that we might only end up wanting more?