Sunday, June 29, 2008

Have New England Fans Become Soft?

Pink Hat, check, sleeping fan, check...

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I used to wonder what it was like to have my team win a title. The Celtics were in the post-Bird Era and the Patriots were just not that good. I live in New England, and although I am not a Red Sox fan, I had plenty of friends who were and I know they wondered that as well. On February 3, 2002, it all ended, and an absolute avalanche of titles headed to New England. The Patriots won 3 Super Bowls, the Red Sox won 2, and the Celtics most recently got in on the action with banner #17, 22 years after banner 16 (The Bruins make a profit every year, can that be considered title worthy?). As a fan, you always hope your team will get it together and win in your lifetime, many times it does not happen (sorry Cubs fans), but here's a thought, is winning so many titles at once a BAD thing? Is it like over-indulging on Kit Kats to the point that you can never eat them again? Does it take away a fan's edge? I wouldn't have thought so either, but in the last couple of weeks, I have to say the evidence points to a resounding "yes".

I first noticed this in the beginning of 2005, when the Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles and claimed their 3rd Super Bowl in 4 years. When the final gun sounded and Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, and Bill Belicheck embraced each other for the final time at midfield, I didn't have that feeling that I did in 2002 when Adam Vinatieri split the uprights and beat the Rams. I had this overwhelming and almost shameful feeling of "been there, done that". I was disgusted with myself as a person and more importantly as a fan. Don't get me wrong, I still watched Pats games, and when the Pats were jobbed in Denver the following season I was angry, jaded, and bitter, but not as much as normal. I felt like the rock singer who always screamed "fight the establishment", then signs a major record deal and ends up on your local Top 40 station after "toning it down a bit" (see the band "Nickleback" for an example). I had become that fan I had always swore I would never be, the complacent fan.

It wasn't just me. Remember when the Red Sox won in 2004? Of course you do, you cried on your best friend's arm and forgave Bill Buckner for everything you had ever said about him. The following season the Red Sox made the playoffs and were swept by the eventual champions, the Chicago White Sox. In a crucial play in that series, former Red Sox second baseman Tony Graffanino let a ball go between his legs that led to the eventual winning runs being scored. It was eery that a team once victimized by the same play 19 years earlier had it happen again, but the eeriest part was the next morning on local sports talk radio. Noone said anything bad about Graffanino that I recall. Nothing. He didn't get any death threats, he wasn't lambasted in the media or by the fans. It had a "hey, those sort of things happen" feel to it which you saw out of fans in Los Angeles, not fans in New England. Even the 2007 World Series win last year seemed a bit anti-climactic, as the Red Sox came back from a 3-1 deficit in the ALCS and went to win 7 games in a row and win again. The trophy came to Maine, but there were no players like in 20o4 when it came. Once again you could feel that "been there, done that" vibe from this area that would have been unheard of just 7 years earlier.

The Boston Celtics recent title win really drove this point home for me. After the Celtics demolished the Lakers in Game 7 and the post game press conferences were finished, I expected area sports fans to just go back to the Red Sox and carry on like it was any other normal June. Instead, people caught up on their sleep. Even local sports talk radio, which usually is all Red Sox all the time, seemed a little bit lacking. At first I thought this was just the grueling NBA Post Season, as the Celtics set a record for playoff games in a season in which a team wins the title. The games were on late at night, sometimes after 9pm, so I figured everyone was tired from that. Watching the Red Sox playing the St Louis Cardinals a few night's ago, I perused the stands when the cameras panned out. I saw many a pink hat, I saw people talking on their cell phones and using their Blackberries, but not alot of passion. The Red Sox ended up losing that home series, and I wondered if maybe the fans "bleh" attitude had started to spill onto the field. The Sox finished that homestand 3-3, which normally means a Thursday morning of angry blogs and phone calls, second-guessing manager Terry Francona, and unrealistic trade proposals to "turn around" a team with one of the best records in baseball. There was none of it. Nothing. All I could feel was that dreaded "been there, done that" attitude that New England fans had ribbed and chided other fans bases about for years. It made me wonder, what can we do as fans to get it back? Is there a cure for this disease called "complacency"?
I wish I could expound on it and give fans a 12-step program to get their edge back, but there was really nothing I could think of. My advice? Put in that 1986 World Series DVD again and listen to Vin Scully yell "Behind the BAG!!!!". Watch Super Bowl XX. Read stories about the Rick Pitino era of the Celtics (I believe all video from that era has been destoyed and if not it should be). Remember how things used to be, and how we as fans held onto that little shred of hope that our teams would come through, only to have that hope torn out of our fingers that were numb from hanging on for so long. Think of the night's you cried when Aaron Boone went yard, Desmond Howard returned that kickoff, and the loss you felt when Len Bias and Reggie Lewis passed away. When you do, remember how that felt and remember, it can all change again with the drop of a hat or a penalty flag. Enjoy this time New England fans, we may NEVER see this again.


Anonymous said...

Well that would explain why are no longer a Yankees fan. So whats next? Become a Colts fan?

MattyMSM said...

That will never happen. Ever. It's not like I left the Yankees for the Red Sox, I left them for the Phillies.


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