National sports pundits have asked that nefarious question endlessly since the Red Sox' World Series victory: What will Red Sox fans do without something to complain about?
Trick question. We still have something to complain about. A form of suffering particular to Sox fans that didn't end with the championship drought: NESN's lineup of commercials.
Scoff all you want, but when you spend as much time as your average Sox fan watching the same cable channel from March through October, with the same wretched commercial spots repeated relentlessly throughout, what begins as "annoying" quickly becomes "cruel and unusual punishment."
There are some advertisements that work with the Red Sox experience, familiar jingles or symbols that remind you pleasantly of the ballpark or the game on the radio. "1-800-54-GIANT", for example (and if you can't immediately sing the tune to that jingle, you're not a Sox fan). The Citgo sign.
Most advertisements, of course, do not. Witness last year's commercial for Southwest Airlines' new service to Philadelphia.
"What's there to do in Philly?" the commercial begins, and then, in the midst of all its other offenses, also utterly and infuriatingly fails to answer that question.
"There's a lot, a lotta culture here," rasps what looks to be a bum on a corner. A man with a gigantic beer gut says "Cheese steak", and then a million different people, each one progressively more irritating, say "cheese steak" over a series of jarring camera cuts.
This also happens with "The Liberty Bell."
I don't need a commercial to tell me that Philly has cheese steak (repeatedly!) and the Liberty Bell. Those are only the most stereotypical things about Philadelphia--the meme of Philadelphia, if you will. Now, if that commercial could have uncovered something truly exciting about Philadelphia, such as that, say, a certain tattoo parlor will inscribe God's true name on your forehead for free, you'd pique my interest.
But the Liberty Bell? Sorry, try again.
It gets worse, though. Cut to a shot of a guy in a taxi cab. Just your average pasty-faced business traveler. Wait for it...wait for it..."It's like a baby New York".
Has a single sentence ever contained more stupidity, meaninglessness, and stupid meaninglessness?
Truly, the Philadelphia commercial is a flaming pustule on the face of commercial television. It is an infuriating affront to the intelligence of its audience.
The first time.
Now imagine it's October. The lights have just gone down on the next bloody Homerian epic tragedy at Yankee Stadium and you, the Red Sox fan, with no fingernails left, attempting to get by at work on eye-crust and weak, wan smiles alone, sit before your television screen awaiting your team's fate, and by extension, your own. Between innings during such an experience, the ideal would be transcendental meditation exercises interspersed with subliminal messages of well-being.
Instead, you get..."It's like a baby New York."
It ain't right.
And it ain't over.
It would now appear, if my experiences last night are any indication, that the Sox fan's torture at the hands of NESN's advertising department will be renewed for another season.
For last night before my horrified eyes appeared the new version of the Foxwood's commercial.
Now, the original Foxwood's commercial makes the baby Jesus cry as it is. It involves a jingle obviously conceived by demons in the bowels of hell solely for the psychological destruction of mortals on earth, sung by a person I personally would like to see re-enact the unintentionally hilarious hit-by-car scene in the Brad Pitt bomb Meet Joe Black.
Seriously, this jingle. This jingle is...shudder-worthy. It's the kind of jingle that sinks its wretched talons into the soft flesh of your brain stem, and never, ever lets go. Someday, if, God forbid, I ever suffer brain injury, I may wind up somewhere in a vegetative state reflexively, tunelessly croaking, "Take a...chance, make...it happen..."
Then there was the Foxwoods commercial version 1.1, which, just to be annoying, printed the words on the screen to the lyrics-less tune of the jingle, but still showed that lounge singer snapping his fingers and smirking through the screen, and with that, even the hearing-impaired were no longer spared the horror of the Foxwoods jingle.
But with version 2.0, which has flown like a winged mutant from the depths of the inferno onto my radar screen now that I'm tuning back into NESN for Sox games, SportsDesk, etc., is a St. Patrick's Day version...wait, it gets better...featuring midgets. Midgets dressed up as leprechauns. Midgets--hang on, we're not done yet--dressed up as leprechauns, singing a freshly infuriating version of the hellacious jingle, specially formulated to be the musical equivalent of the flattest, stalest, most watered down green St. Patrick's Day beer.
Midgets. With creepy little voices. Playing slot machines, frolicking in piles of poker chips, singing, like the Wizard of Oz remake that time forgot. Oh, and lest you think this is merely seasonally-oriented torture, it is now, by my watch, approximately two and a half weeks since St. Patrick's Day. There are two options from now on, both equally hideous: they continue playing the St. Patrick's Day version for several more months, or they come up with a new seasonal version of the jingle / commercial every month for the rest of the baseball season, and by the end I have to force myself to watch Red Sox games like I'm in A Clockwork Orange, between Foxwoods midgets and whatever fresh hell Southwest Airlines can dream up (Tucson: it's like a baby Toronto!).
You want to tell me that's not suffering?
But Sox fans will do what Sox fans have always done--band together in times of adversity. Soon drunken renditions of "Piano Man" will surely drown out the horrors visited on us by NESN. Sox fans will find a way to circumvent or subvert their tormentors, perhaps selling knockoff T-shirts that say "FOXWOODS SUCKS" for $5 on sheets of cardboard just over the Mass Pike bridge.
And in our darkest moments, we will cling to one single, uplifting fact: NESN may insist on showing us bad commercials, but at least our team owner doesn't let Ronan Tynan waddle out onto the field at every home game to warble "God Bless America" for approximately an hour and a half.
And we will count our blessings.