Thursday, March 20, 2008

Gotta get it out of the system

There will be plenty of time for posts like this one. And I do feel as though at least 99% of what I am about to cover has already been said. But I might as well get this sentiment out of the way in the early going. In response to this post our house Minnesota Twins expert had the following response:

Red Sox fans would do well to take a lesson from Yankee fans here. Nobody likes either group. At all. But there's a certain honesty in the "kiss the rings" approach that just isn't there in a whiny, aggrieved letter to consumerist.

Our man from the land of the common loon is anything but loony on this issue. In fact, he hit the nail right on the head. Red Sox fans want to have it both ways. We want the 28 other teams to be on our side as we battle the hated Yankees. At the same time we’ve started to behave increasingly belligerent to the fans of the other 28. We still want to be looked at as David, yet we behave like Goliath’s punk younger brother.

What’s most upsetting to me is not that this has happened, but how fast it happened. Sure, in 2004 some folks around the country had long been sick of Sox’ fans woe-is-me attitude, but I think the majority of them still thought it at least pretty neat when the Sox finally toppled the Yankees and went on to win a World Series. But now? As I see it the best-case scenario is we’re viewed as the lesser of two evils.

Shame, too, because the perception used to be so much different. Sox fans were passionate, yes, but for the most part they seemed to be thought of as knowledgeable baseball fans more than caustic, pompous fools.. And now? More meathead Mike than John Updike. More unwitting Yankee fan twin than Doris Kearns Goodwin. More Jimmy Fallon than Jimmy Piersall. Well that one doesn't really work at all, but you get the point..

Here are some observations of Sox fans I jotted down after attending a Sox-Mariners game at Safeco Field in 2006. Things have only gotten worse in the intervening couple of years:

Sights and sounds included the belittling of a gentle middle-aged Mariners fan and taunts about the Mariners lack of a World Series title. As far as I could tell his only sin was clapping vigorously for Raul Ibañez, in his home ballpark, within earshot of the belitters. Two guys in the front row of my section who routinely stood, put both arms above their heads and extended their middle fingers to everyone seated behind them. There was much swearing around the kiddies. There were a couple of guys on both sides of the aisle who shouted and obnoxiously taunted fans by shaking their keys in the faces of families that dared to exit the stadium before the start of the ninth inning. And yes, there were a few attempts to start a “Yankees Suck” chant (other fans used to join in with Sox fans on this chant, but we have now worn out our welcome across the land).

The Sox won and there was much rejoicing. On my walk home I stopped at a neighborhood convenience store drink. The Japanese owner saw my Red Sox shirt and asked me if I enjoyed the game. I told him it was great. He said it was awful. He told me how he really wanted the Mariners to beat us, how it used to be the Yankees he hated, but now it’s the Red Sox. Part of this could be because we win more than we used to, but I can’t help but think it’s also because our fans are bigger idiots than they used to be. We’ve scrapped that passionate underdog persona of yore and recast ourselves as one of the most easily hated fan bases in all of American sport. Thanks guys!

We act like that, making enemies of perhaps the most amiable fan base in America and yet we keep up with the aggrieved attitude when it suits us.

It all boils down to this: Winning gives idiots the capital to be bigger idiots and it makes those stuck in the quaint New England woe-is-me/chicken little mindset look absolutely ridiculous. Winning also draws in the bandwagon hoppers who throughout the course of human history have never been a source of anything positive. And, finally, winning invites additional scrutiny from all the other fan bases. You put it all together and you get an awful tasting goulash of these three factions thinking they're doing the right thing when really they're not. I blame David Ortiz.

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