February 12, 2021

An Announcement For 2021, And Beyond

The Joy of Sox will no longer have regular season game recaps.

Every winter for the past four or five years, I have wondered if it's time to end the blog. I put off making the decision, spring rolls around, and I'm always glad to come back. The 2021 season will be the 19th season I have blogged about the Red Sox. I began writing about the 2003 season at my old Pedro site and in late August of that year, I created my little corner of the internet. This is my 8,775th post.

I'm coming back in 2021, but to paraphrase the Bard, I'm not coming back all the way.

Major League Baseball has been working hard in recent years to push dedicated, life-long fans away from the game they love. Sadly, that work has had results.

Separate from that, my connection to the Red Sox has weakened with each World Series title. That trade-off, however, is one I will never regret. There are many things in this world worth following avidly besides baseball.

As I mentioned, I started posting online about the Red Sox in 2003, which was extremely fortuitous. That season and the one that followed was the absolute peak of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry (and the absolute peak of my obsession with the Red Sox). 

Nothing will (or can) match 2003-2004. If you did not experience that excruciating, exhilarating, 21-month, 408-game mega-season first-hand, you will never truly understand it. That is simply a fact. The day-by-day-by-day drama (of any baseball season, really) can be truly experienced only in real time. No book can do it justice (not even this one, though you'll be a happier person (as will I) if you own a copy). Like the old-timers say, "You had to be there", living it, inning after inning, game after game, idle, non-baseball hours dragging on as you obsessed about what had happened and wondered about what would happen, until it ended in the most unbelievable way possible. (I'm far from alone in still asking myself: Did that really happen?!?)

It really did . . . and it was another full year before I realized what the lasting effects might be. The 2005 Red Sox were swept out of the ALDS in three games. As I wrote later that night:

When Edgar Renteria ended the second consecutive Red Sox season with an infield grounder, I went out to walk my dogs, and I was somewhat surprised at how I felt. . . . I didn't mind all that much. Sure, winning is better than losing. I'd rather be anxious and pacing, waiting for Game 4 to start. But it seems that within my baseball heart, the glow of 2004 has failed to dim. . . .

The short series was frustrating . . . but there was no real angst over the final result, certainly no weight of history on the shoulders. Later on in the evening, I actually said: "Hey, you can't win them all." . . . [D]eep down, I'm content. . . .

The ripple effects of 2004 — and the promise of 2006, now a mere dot of light on the horizon, but soon to come into clearer view — will keep me quite warm through another winter.

My brain was re-wired in October 2004 and that's how it's been ever since. Which is not to say I have not enjoyed the many successes that have followed. The 2007 season was made extra special by a diverse and active crowd of game-threaders and another from-the-near-dead postseason comeback, the occurrence of which I was as confident as I was of the next day's sunrise (a marked difference from 2004). There was 2013, a satisfying cleansing of the palate after suffering through the dismal backwash following the Tito Years, though I was somewhat distracted by the interviews and writing of Don't Let Us Win Tonight. And the joyous, unstoppable juggernaut of 2018, starring the much-missed Mookie Betts.

The period of 2003-2018 was without question the greatest time to be a Red Sox fan. The franchise also won four championships during the 1910s (1912-1918), but those teams did not have the long history of coming up short that made these recent titles so satisfying.

Stunned after the brutal, crushing, gut-punch of 2003, I seriously wondered if I would ever see the Red Sox win the World Series. Boston's final game that season began on my 40th birthday, so I presumably had numerous seasons ahead in which to hope, but how many times can even a masochist put himself through something like that? The 2003 Red Sox seemed about as good as it got, and if they couldn't make it happen, who could? Fifty-four weeks later, I had my answer. And now I have seen the Red Sox win four World Series championships. FOUR! I also have a day-by-day-record of my mindset (more or less) and what was newsworthy as each of those historic seasons rolled on.

I no longer worry about watching the Red Sox every day, of immersing myself completely in their current season so if they do win it all, I'll have gone through the full experience. I don't need to do that any more and, if I'm being honest, I really don't want to. Fifteen years ago, following the team was a part-time job even on the slowest days. 

My main reason for watching the Red Sox now is because I enjoy watching the Red Sox. There's only one problem. I don't enjoy watching the Red Sox in the manner in which the games are presented to me.

If you have been reading my posts for a while, you are undoubtedly familiar with my ever-growing list of grievances, my numerous complaints, about MLB and NESN. In brief: I have zero patience for gaffe-prone announcers who remain blissfully ignorant of their nightly missteps or who mail it in so often their face should be on a stamp; the incessant advertising makes me sick; and while the slower pace-of-play bothers me, MLB's refusal to intelligently deal with it annoys me much more, because MLB cannot do anything without somehow fucking things up and Rob Manfred's crusade to trash the fundamental competitive structure of the game by adding gimmicky rules better suited to beer-league softball, none of which will solve the problems he claims he wants to solve, and all of which causes me headache-level infuriation, as well as a profound sadness over the clear realization that I've already begun losing one of the few things I've loved for nearly my entire life.

Also: I switched time zones two seasons ago (Eastern to Pacific) and added a fourth day to my work schedule. Now, night games usually begin at 4 PM and weekend day games start before noon. Watching every game is not a priority and these earlier start times don't make it any easier. (Note: Game recaps would return for playoff games, but that will most likely not be an issue in 2021.)

Plus: I have another book project I began researching several years ago. I cannot walk away from the idea and I have neglected it for too long. I have to make it my priority in 2021. (And if anyone knows an agent . . .)

20 comments:

Brian said...

The parallels between my Red Sox timeline and yours are many: I became a season ticket holder in ‘03, attended so many classic games I can hardly believe it, moved to the West Coast about 10 years ago and traded my tickets for a subscription to MLB.com, and just today cancelled that subscription for the first time in over a decade.

Like yourself, I still can’t believe how much joy this obsession has brought me. The agony that occasionally came along for the ride only heightened that pleasure.

Straddling the Border said...

As usual, I appreciate everything you write about baseball and the Red Sox. The first half of my Red Sox life (lived mostly in Boston) included '67, '75, '78, and '86. Living in Vancouver for the second half, I enjoyed all those highs from afar - with mlb.com, internet radio, and joyofsox. My frustration grew along with the "ever-growing list of grievances" until on the adoption of the "beer-league softball" rule I resolved to skip the 2020 season. Reading your post is bittersweet but a powerful reminder of how much joyofsox enhanced my enjoyment of those "greatest time to be a Red Sox fan" years.

johngoldfine said...

I've never been the fan you are, but in my own paler way I've followed more or less the same emotional arc you have and have certainly always found your complaints about MLB and broadcasting compelling, i.e., alternately infuriating and hilarious.

JHR said...

I understand. I've been hooked on the Red Sox since about 1965 with '67 sealing the deal. I was at the last game in '78 when they tied the Yanks and at the Bucky Dent game the next day. After that I left New England for Asia and the Pacific. I was in Tokyo in '86 listening to the games on the Far East radio network. I turned it off and slammed the door and took a walk after Bob Stanley threw the wild pitch. '72, '75 and '78 taught be well that when the Sox blow a two-run lead with two outs, they aren't coming back. (It was never Buckner, it was the wild pitch and not being able to get one more frigging out.) I was in Texas in 2003 alternately listening when they were ahead and Pedro was pitching. (Mostly I could not listen.) Unbelievably the power in my house went out that night and I had to dig up a transistor radio to hear when Boone ended it. Then 2004 and the other three championships. They eased my pain forever. Now, worst of all, I'm indifferent. I'm back in Tokyo again where Japanese baseball doesn't use shifts, where they still bunt, starting pitches still go deep into games and pitches and innings go by blissfully quickly because it is all about the fans here. I've had mlb.com for many years but could barely watch last season. I hope the fever will return to me again one day but it's fading.

GK said...

Allan,

I wanted to say that my arc of following your blog started around the 2003 playoffs. I grew up in a different part of the world, following a different bat and ball game, a close cousin of baseball (which I still do). I moved to the New England area right around that time, and I got to learn and love baseball, all because I kept reading your blog. Believe it or not, my first full season of watching baseball was 2004! For me the 2004 season (of course!) but also the 2007 season cant be beat.

My close following of the Sox ended in 2013, to deal with a new bundle of joy. We got rid of our TV, and I was left with watching highlights and reading your gameday notes. I never got to see the the Sox in person, but got as close to knowing about what happened as one could get from your gameday notes. I dont think I missed too many of your posts, in 17+ years (gulp!). I also enjoyed, and still do!, taking a detour and checking out WMTC, and love the perspectives you and L. bring to the world. If ever you are in the the Yankee following region of New England (and there is no pandemic to deal with!), you are most welcome to our place. I will need to dig around the blog and see if you have any listed email address, to send you my contact.

-GK

Jim said...

Yeah, I hear you. Funny, it was June of 2003 I moved back to Kingston because my employer in Ottawa dumped me by turning my job into 2 people and requiring degrees/diplomas for both (try getting a job when you're 57 and coming back from spinal cord surgery). Anyway, since I had been a Red Sox fan from the age of 5, the rise of the internet suddenly made following them from afar as I always had a lot easier. As I look back on that transition, my conclusion is there is no way I could have held down a job since I was having too much fun being with the Sox the whole way. Those playoff marathons ending in the wee hours were not conducive with waking up for work.
I also am losing interest in the game for the same reasons you cited. I've been an MLB-TV subscriber since inception and they owe me for 4 months from last season. Otherwise I might be gone. The greed of Rob and the owners plus the war with the players' union is like the old cold war nuclear arms race--mutually agreed destruction (with the emphasis on G R E E D).
Still. I'll stick around to see how it all turns out and drop by to get your thoughts. Thanks for all your insights, it's been fun.

Unknown said...

I started following you in 2003, probably late in the season. In 2004 I followed Keys to the Game, Surviving Grady and Bambino's Curse, but when I wanted the facts/details of a game I would turn to you. Still do, through your book (but I certainly do not mean to diminish the efforts of Art Martone and, of course, SoSH).

I can only echo the sentiments/experiences of other readers here, and appreciate the commitments you have made to keep me/us enlightened through the years. Thank you.

Current affairs have greatly diminished my enjoyment of the professional sports: blatant corruption, hypocrisy, greed. But, it has been a golden era for Boston sports, and I am fortunate to have witnessed and cheered the success in this era.

Finally, I also commend you for your yoeman's work in "tested by research." Finally, Thank you.

Dr. Jeff said...

You didn't mention the Covid-era; it's really different watching games now. My Red Sox journey started subliminally while living in Massachusetts in the early 70's and continuing after a long break from baseball when I started college in Fall '86.

I share your frustrations with the announcers--watching EPL soccer is a joy largely because of the intelligent and unflinchingly honest announcers (particularly Arlo White) who actually have decent vocabularies to describe what they see.

I don't live close to any MLB stadiums and stopped getting the MLB TV package, so I only rarely watch the games. Always enjoyed your game summaries though.

wallythe24 said...

Allan ,

Obviously I'm a bit of latecomer and found your blog around 2008/09.
It's a bit difficult following Baseball here on the small island.
You've helped me enormously in understanding the game and furthered my reading which I never would have been able to do otherwise.
So much thanks for all your hard work.
Good luck with the book.

Warren

betterthanthealternative said...

I hear you, and am in a similar place. I still enjoy the team building, the player development, just about anything quirky that shows up, and Yankee misery. But that's about it.

Hope you hang in with observations and commentary.

Good luck with the book project. I'm surprised you need an agent (not that I know one; I'm just surprised that all your writing wouldn't at some point had you connected to one.)

And please hang in with tested by research.

MK
Washington DC

Matt M said...

I have been reading your blog daily since 2003. I agree with your sentiments regarding the emotional ride of the past two decades and having a diminishing passion for the team. I now live a mile from the white sox and find my interests slowly drifting towards them.

Thank you for providing a great resource for passionate fans for so long. I have always enjoyed your intellectual approach to watching the crimson hose. I am grateful to you for providing such a valuable resource on a daily basis.

allan said...

Thanks for all these comments. I'll write more later.

k r c said...


Just a quick note to say how much I've enjoyed this blog over the past few years (I arrived late to the party, 2016 or 2017). There's a lot of baseball writing out there with depth (meticulous research, sabermetric sophistication, intimate knowledge of the history of the game), and a lot of it with "edge," but not much that has both in spades the way this blog does.

More times than I could count, I've read something you've written aloud to my wife (bless her patient soul).

Many thanks for the insights, the commiseration, the laughs, and the deliciously acrid posts about #45 (the president, not the pitcher).

allan said...

Thanks for all the comments. I did not expect them, though I really appreciate them. Some of them make I seem like the blog is closing down. It's not, though I'm not at all clear what it will look like this year. For one thing, I can't bitch about NESN if I'm not watching a lot of NESN. Also, the recaps may return one day. I truly have no idea.

Brian:
I have not thought twice about renewing my MLBTV subscription. If that ever happens, it will be a very sad day. A lot of interests stay with us in our lives but eventually evolve or vanish. Baseball has certainly evolved in my mind over the years and I feel it's not completely up to me if it vanishes.

Stradding:
Are you still in Vancouver? If so, how long have you been there? Shortly after we moved, the law firm flew me in for a day (Feb. 2019), but that's been my only time there outside of our 2016 vacation. If I visit again, I'd meet up, if you'd like.

GK:
Damn, a very early reader! We certainly hope to be back in New England at some point. I have family in Vermont (including a sister and a great aunt who is 95) and I don't want to think I've been at Fenway for the last time. If you click on my name under the Game Threads thimble, there is a link to my email.

betterthan:
I did have an agent, in the previous century (!), back when I lived in Manhattan. We nearly had a deal for "1918", but it fell through, and that was that. Since then, I have not exactly been prolific (I'm not counting the blog), though if I had representation for all those years, I might have been able to turn a few ideas into books. I didn't need an agent for DLUWT.

Matt:
Another reader since close to the beginning!

krc:
You're too kind with your assessment of my writing. (You must have read previous years because I think there was more of that stuff years ago.) Also, your poor wife…. I don't even read my stuff to my wife! . . . I have refused for more than four years to allow that toxic orange asshole to ruin the glorious number 45 for me. It has not been easy, but the worst is over. (When did people start referring to presidents by number? It's pretty recent. It might have started with W to distinguish him from his equally evil father?)

Also, thanks to everyone who reads "testing" for reading "testing". I'm hoping at least a few of the old goats like me know where the name comes from.

Unknown said...

Allan,

Thank you for all these years of game recaps and the entertainment. While your game recaps will be deeply missed, I very much look forward to seeing where you take the blog from here. My baby-boomer, progressive-thinking father turned me on to this site a number of years back and I've followed it on a daily basis since. It's funny, just the other day I had a thought about how long your game recaps might sustain since I always found your dedication and commitment to writing them, with thought and creativity, so impressive, especially after seeing many of the Sox blogger/ fan sites that went up in the early 2000s come down.

Contrary to many of your followers, I'm a millenial, but I agree with your sentiments about the game. For me, the best play in the game is a tie between a perfectly execute hit and run and a 2-out RBI single to knock the guy in on 2nd. We don't get that any more. Gone is a game of strategy. That said, I will be tuning in this year again this year. Maybe I just haven't been burned enough over the years or been around long enough to see how truly far the game has strayed away from what it once was. February days, where the sun starts to pop up earlier, and we approach daylight savings, still turn my mind towards baseball and the excitement of coming home from school (now logging off from work) and watching the Red Sox.

Thank you for all these years of entertainment! I hope you will get to tap into some new passions with the extra time this affords you.

Best,
Beau

Straddling the Border said...

Allan - I am well-settled in Vancouver and would absolutely love to meet up with you when next you get here. Alternatively, sometime I'd like to get up to the beautiful part of the Province you guys chose, but I don't know when that might happen.

FenFan said...

Only a week late responding... I actually still have the browser window open from Monday. :)

My experience has almost paralleled yours, Allan. I was eating, drinking, and living Red Sox baseball almost 24/7 for a number of years, and it amplified after I became a partial season ticket holder in 1998. In the last 4-5 years, the enthusiasm has waned considerably, especially as MLB continues to drive away its base with changes that are laughable (the extra inning runner at second, the no-pitch IBBs, the saturation of advertisements, etc.). My fan site is still active, but my last post is almost two years old at this point and with work, family, etc., it isn't a priority.

I believe I started following your blog in 2004, and I was drawn in by the variety of your postings, not just the game recaps, but your thoughts on baseball in general, your book reviews, the seemingly endless wars, your move to Canada, etc. My favorite, amongst everything from which to choose, are your Schadenfreude posts; I hope to continue to see those appear here.

Like you, I still follow the Sox because I LIKE them, and I'll take that loyalty to the grave. I've really enjoyed sharing that enthusiasm with you and I look forward to your future posts, as frequently or as infrequently as they'll appear.

Paul Hickman said...

Fully concur with FenFan.

Have been reading this since about July 2004 & it continues to be High Quality & Entertaining.

Will read whatever & whenever you post.

Cheers

Michael J. G. said...

Thank you so much, Allan. I've been reading this blog for the last eleven years and have turned to your game recaps every day for the first word about the previous day's action. It's always been one of my favorite parts of following the Sox, and I'll miss it dearly. I completely agree with your thoughts on the way that the league has been running the game into the ground, too. Thank you for providing this service for so many years!

Best,
Michael/mjg13x

hrstrat57 said...

The real sawx will return. This too shall pass.
Joy of Sox is eternal.
Cheers Allen!