A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away Boston was not the triumphant city of champions that it is today. The Patriots were a pre-Belichick joke, the Celtics consisted of Paul Pierce plus a bunch of stiffs, and the Bruins…well, I actually can’t recall if the Bruins even existed. The king of all these sports lackeys (no pun intended Jon) was the almighty Boston Red Sox. Much like a woman, the Sox were great at getting your hopes up, taking your money, and leaving you feeling crushed and heart broken. Sorry ladies, maybe that was a bit harsh. After all, I don’t think all the woman in the suburbs of Boston combined have caused as many heart attacks as the Red Sox. The key to these masters of pain was not only the continued losing, but in the way they did it. They had a knack for getting your hopes up and then crushing you back to earth just when you had allowed yourself to believe again. Boston was not the city champions, it was the city of failures. “Red Sox Nation” was not a bunch of naive fair-weather fans (a.k.a. “pink hats”), but instead consisted of angry, critical, baseball-savvy, die-hard, blue-collar sports fanatics. They loved nothing better than to call in to sports radio and bitch and moan about the players and managers that continually let the city down. Boston was a big black hole of negativity…and it was far better than this blind faith and optimism we find ourselves surrounded by today.
When a team is awful, let alone a whole city full of team’s, obviously the fan base dwindles. The only ones left are the true die-hards; the fans who stick around through all the years of futility just for the slim chance of one day reaping the joy that comes from long-awaited success. Over the past decade, these Boston fans have gotten quite the return investment on all the years they put in rooting for losers. The Patriots have become the class of the NFL (3 Super Bowls), the Red Sox are a juggernaut (2 World Series), and even the Celtics and the Bruins have each won a recent championship and sit at the top of their leagues. No fans deserved it more, as Bostonians got to celebrate time and time again. However, as each team continued to succeed, more and more people started jumping on the bandwagon. These fans had not stuck by their teams while they struggled and they considered the games and gear mere novelties instead of aspects of true fandom. Thus, prices skyrocketed on everything from tickets to jerseys to ball caps and more. Also, instead of having raucous crowds full of die-hards at games, Boston was stuck with at least half the audience more interested in getting on the Jumbotron or texting their friends than they were in watching the game. This swell of fake fans who know nothing about the actual teams they pretend to cheer for, has had a disturbing trickle-down effect on the city as a whole. Long gone are the days of criticism and negativity, replaced by unwavering (and unquestioned) faith in the local teams. Instead of asking the hard questions, reporters stand wide-eyed asking Tom Brady about his wife or his hair or sympathizing with Tito Francona about the tough job he has as a baseball manager. A city once known for its tough media has gone soft.
Rick Pitino once said of Boston, “the negativity in this town sucks.” Sorry Rick, but I disagree. The optimism in this town sucks. It was the negativity that defined us as a great sports city; A city that bled with their teams, a city that cared for their teams, and most importantly a city that gave everything to their teams. Don’t be like New York or L.A., go back to your roots. It is the undying passion of this city that separates it from those other big-market towns. It is the undying passion of this city that has been swept away by a wave of success carrying a bandwagon full of fake fans. It is the undying passion of this city that is fighting to take Boston back for the true fans.