October 31, 2004

Identity. A reader in Maine adds her two cents about the Red Sox fans like losing angle:
I abhor this sentiment. I will always want my team to win. The difference now is that I will no longer have to endure the sarcasm and ridicule of others, especially my Yankee-loving uncles and aunts. The whole world now knows what I and millions others do: this team is special and are the world champions. Personally, my psyche is fine.
Back in the distant past -- when the Red Sox hadn't won a World Series in 86 years -- I had a theory about why Yankee fans gave us so much shit. It couldn't be that they truly hated us, since what the hell did Boston ever do to the Yankees to inspire such venom? No, they were jealous of us. They knew, deep in their hearts, so deep they could never admit it, that if their team ever put them through what the Red Sox have occasionally put us through, they would never last. They'd stop watching, stop going to the park, stop wearing the caps and shirts and jackets. Too much trouble, too much pain, not enough winning. In a sentence: We are better fans and they know it.

We stayed. We stayed through years of crappy teams. We stayed through 1978, 1986 and the years of finishing behind New York. We stayed and endured the countless little losses and embarrassments each season brought. We stayed through 1999 and we stayed through 2003. And we came back stronger, believing even more. Most people would not do that. We are not most people.

Most fans are more fair-weather than that. I mean, why bother? It's only baseball, a game for godsakes. Why put yourself through such abuse? ... Love. Nothing but wholehearted love -- for the team, the players and the game itself. In the good times and in the bad. In sickness and in health. Love. We don't run from bad times.

I doubt that the writers penning these "Sox fans are lost now" stories even believe them. It's just a stupid, easy angle. The curse angle has vanished, so they need something equally mindless to blather on about. Being a Red Sox fan has never been about suffering and heartache. Anyone that tells you that -- even if a Red Sox cap is on his head -- is a moron. ... I recently described my 2003 ALCS experience as "soul-crushing" -- but my relationship with the Red Sox has always been about happiness. (Even in 1986, the ALCS against California was wondrous.)

Being at Fenway Park -- night or day -- is one of my life's greatest pleasures. When I walk up the aisle, get hit by that rush of green and bright red, find my seat and look around, I always say to myself, "God, I love this place." And when the game is done, I linger, wandering down closer to the field, trying to absorb as much of the park as possible, to sustain me until I return.

Anyone who was truly bothered by the losing likely handed in his cap and got off the bus years ago. When we became fans, often at a young age (I was 11), we knew nothing about Boston's past. And even if someone told us, it was just words, it had no meaning. By the time we were old enough to understand the history, to experience it first-hand, we were already hopelessly in love.

Red Sox Nation never defined itself by the curse. And we won't define ourselves by whatever label the national sports media is fitting us for now.

We still have expectations. We demand a repeat. We demand a first place finish, as befits defending World Champions, relegating the Yankees to also-ran status and summarily vanquishing all playoff foes.

And we'll boo and swear when Terry Francona screws up the bullpen or writes out an odd lineup or the team can't get a runner in from third with 0 outs. Well, maybe not as quickly as before. Perhaps we'll give Tito and the players the slight benefit of the doubt, because ...


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