Post to Post with Papa Cunny: These Fans Ain’t Loyal
Issue   |   Wed, 05/07/2014 - 02:31

$100,000 for the promotion of a Broadway show in exchange for 86 years of absolute misery and despair. For outsiders, this transaction may mean nothing, but it’s a familiar equation that Boston Red Sox fans know all too well. In 1918, the Red Sox traded away arguably the most prolific hitter in Major League history for $100,000 in cash so the team owner could promote his upcoming show. The Red Sox then proceeded to not win another World Series for 86 years. The curse of the Bambino was real.

Throughout these 86 years, Sox fans were driven to brink of absolute insanity. Every season started off with “this is the year,” but the team always had a special way of crushing fans’ hopes and dreams in a heart-breaking fashion. Bill Buckner lets a weak dribbler between his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Enos Slaughter’s “mad dash” in ’46. Bucky Dent slams one over the Monster in 1978 and sends Sox fans home crying. The absurd manner in which the Red Sox would collapse was almost comical. Nonetheless, no matter how poor or underachieving the team proved to be on the field, Sox fans maintained their abusive relationship with the squad. Red Sox Nation stayed loyal throughout.

However, this sense of unity and passion has not transcended into my generation of Red Sox fans — we are overly spoiled. Three World Series crowns since 2004 have pushed Sox fans into a realm of complacency. We no longer have the undying thirst to win as did our preceding generation. The Red Sox are now expected to win every season, and when they do we’re satisfied, but when they don’t, we turn our back to the organization. While our preceding generation of Sox fans had an enduring determination to back the squad through the good and bad (mostly the bad), present day, youthful Sox supporters have sold out.

As a young child, watching Red Sox games was a ritual in my household, to the point where it almost resembled a religious ceremony. The connection my family and I had with the team through the hardships of the pre-championship years, made the 2004 World Series victory all the more sweet, especially for my parents. One can never understand the true beauty of victory if he or she has never been demoralized by defeat.

However, after the team won in 2004, the 2007 and 2013 championships didn’t produce the same excitement. It was more of a “been there, done that” scenario, and my support for the team declined. I was not alone, as most fans followed a similar trajectory. While it’s upsetting to notice, my generation is not completely at fault. Total blame cannot be given to my generation for their lackluster support.

Egos and greed on behalf of the team’s ownership has forced the true fans from Fenway Park. This Mecca of sports has become unaffordable for Bostonians from my generation who want nothing more than to support their team. Red Sox games are now more of a social gathering for elite business men who use the tickets to persuade potential clients, instead of a mad house where die-hard fans chow down on Fenway Franks (which are $7 by the way) and boo the opposing team for nine innings.
The Boston Red Sox organization acts as a member of upper society and has totally alienated the groups they should be attempting to connect with. The sport of baseball has the ability to transcend far outside the field — it’s “America’s pastime” for a reason. A father taking his son to his first ball game is often seen as a major bonding experience that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy. Every Boston boy or girl remembers his or her first Sox game. Unfortunately, these memories are a dying cultural experience for Bostonians, ultimately playing a role in my generation’s disloyalty.

It’s sad to see such a storied fan base like Red Sox Nation stray away from the teachings of our elders. Many times I look at Chicago Cubs fans, and ironically, wish I were in their shoes. Those fans have not seen their team win a World Series since 1908. Now, I’m not a Math major, but lets just say that is a lot of years of losing. Living through so many difficult seasons would make the winning so much better and the connection between fan and team far deeper.

It’s interesting to compare the teams who have won a ring to the current and past members of Sox Nation. While the 2004 team had a cast of All-Stars, most of the players actually started off as gritty, highly-committed no-namers who all played an instrumental role in the team’s success, much like the fans. Dave Roberts pinch runs and steals the most important base in the team’s history during Game 4 of the ’04 ALCS. Curtis Leskanic pitches one-and-a-third scoreless innings, recording the win, in the same game. Career .230 hitter Mark Bellhorn hits a three-run blast to propel the Sox to victory in Game 6 of the same series. The 2004 team was truly the fan’s team, mirroring the blue-collar, persistent nature of Bostonians.

The 2012 Red Sox team went in a totally dissimilar direction. Ownership went against the grain, emulating the Yankees in many ways, using money to buy wins. The team ended up with a 69-93 record — finishing dead last in the American League East Division.
While the past generation of fans would have stayed strong with their boys, my generation abandoned them. Attendance was the lowest it had been in years, and since the team had won the World Series in 2004 and 2007, losing was utterly unacceptable. It was as if the team on the field must resemble the past generations of Sox fans in the stands in order to win.

Last season was a small glimmer of hope for the state of Red Sox Nation. As was the case in 2004, the team on the field primarily consisted of a group of rag-tag, hard-nosed men who wanted nothing more than to bring a trophy to Boston. For the first time since 2004, the fans resembled this attitude as well.

After the Boston Marathon bombings on April 14, 2013, the community was in a state of hopelessness. The Red Sox became a team of hope and banded together around the community. The fans fed off their energy and commitment, ultimately using the team as a venting method. It was something that everyone could cling to. When David Ortiz grabbed the microphone on the field days after the bombings and said, “This is our f**ing city,” on live television, it really resonated with fans. They remembered that the Red Sox were there for them, and they should have the same attitude. The connection was rebuilt for that season, and the team banded together and won the World Series at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918. It seemed so appropriate.
At the end of the day, true Sox fans are still a dying breed. I’m not saying that I would prefer the Red Sox to finish in last place every season just so I could know what the past generations felt like. I definitely enjoy watching my team win; however, I yearn for the sense of camaraderie past fans shared with the Sox — they were in the trenches together.

It’s as though Red Sox Nation now prefers to critique the team as opposed to support them. While it was nice to see togetherness between fans and them team last season, I feel as though it was an anomaly. Recent Sox teams have begun to pave a winning tradition in Boston, and it’s going to take some getting used to for fans, including myself.

In the end, no matter how good or bad the team proves to be, how power hungry the ownership becomes or how many seats are filled at home games, Sox fans must always remember one thing: At least we’re not from Cleveland.
The past relationship between Sox fans and the team is like the girl who didn’t love you back — it ultimately makes you want her more.