It was October of 1986, and I was 11 years old. My father woke me to watch the Red Sox win a World Series, something he was convinced he’d never see in his lifetime.
I’m not going to get into it. We know the morbid details that unfurled that night, Game 6 in Shea Stadium. What strikes me now, however, was something my father said after his apoplectic fit of fury, his rapid-fire assault of profanities and a television on the precarious brink of being Pink Floyd-trashed. When my father had calmed a bit, he sat on the edge of his bed, his head in his hands.
“I hate these fucking guys,” he said. “I’m never watching them again.”
Of course, he watched Game 7 because the Red Sox fans, despite our dumb bluster, always watch the next game.
And before 2004; before the Pink Hats and the brick-buyers and the Wally-Wavers, most Red Sox fans, on a visceral level, hated the team on some level—Psychology 101, love and hate are synonymous emotions. This disposition was woven into my New England DNA, an inherited part of my worldview, something I never questioned. The Red Sox would break my heart and disappoint me, and I’d hate while loving them in return. The relationship, though dysfunctional, worked; if nothing else, it was passionate.
Then the unimaginable happened: The Red Sox won the World Series.
And for the first time in my life, I watched Red Sox fans drop the chip off our shoulders, and thus the honeymoon-stage began. The team was swept out of divisional series in 2005. No big deal. They missed the postseason in 2006. Oh well.
Then it happened again in 2007: They won another World Series.
Now the Red Sox were sexy, the most successful baseball franchise of the new century, and Fenway Park—or the “Fenway Experience”—was the place to be seen for a new, affluent demographic who couldn’t tell a squeegee from a Suicide Squeeze and couldn’t care less.
In 2011, the Red Sox blew a nine-game lead for the Wild Card spot in September, losing 18 of their last 24 games as their starting pitchers stuffed their faces with chicken and pounded Bud Lights in the clubhouse. This riled fans a bit, but it quickly went back to the status quo.
The front office fired Terry Francona, let Theo Epstein walk, and hired resident ass-clown Bobby Valentine as manager for the 2012 season. They finished in last place in a season that was veritable car accident. Still, no biggie.
Then, as the planets freakishly aligned in 2013, it happened yet again: They won another World Series.
As Jonny Gomes began summoning Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Ted Nugent with his bombastic victory speeches, I was convinced that Red Sox fans had permanently lost their edge, that they may never again possess the healthy negativity I grew up knowing—something I still admire in Cubs’ fans.
This season, however, after two consecutive last place finishes—three in four seasons—something is starting to feel familiar.
Since players reported to Fort Myers on Feb. 18, there has been an inundation of negativity. In fact, fans and media are dehumanizing the organization, relegating them to roles of animals. Pablo Sandoval is pig; Hanley Ramirez is a dog; and management and the front office are sheep for allowing the players to run the roost.
Additionally, Clay Buchholz, their projected second starter, is made of glass (and supports Donald Trump). Rick Porcello is overpaid, widely unproven and underperforming to the tune of $20 million a year. The Cubans, Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncado, who the organization dumped a combined $100 million, are untested and spectulative. Pedroia is entering the twilight of his career, and people are taking bets on when John Farrell will get his walking papers. We’re hearing all of it.
This isn’t a bad thing.
The natives, finally, after a decade of relative complacency, are starting to beat the war drums, and this isn’t a bad thing. Maybe the return to negativity will bring back a sense of urgency that has been lacking for a long time since fans have been spoiled by their splendor.
My own son turns 11 years old in May, and he might catch a glimpse of the nostalgia, his father sitting on the edge of his bed, his head in hands, mumbling that he hates this fucking team.
This isn’t a bad thing.
New York Daily News thumbnail photo illustration via Twitter