I learned what it truly means to be a Red Sox fan back on a fall day in 1978.
I was a middle school soccer player participating in a scrimmage game at Gorham High School. I was more interested in the game on the radio at the scorer’s table than I was in the game on the field. Fortunately, I suppose, my soccer skills were such that it really made no difference whether the coach put me into the game or not. So, I was able to spend most of the game keeping updated on the Red Sox. They were playing the Yankees in the infamous one-game playoff at the end of the season. I was a die-hard Sox fan and lived and breathed the Red Sox Nation air.
I don’t even remember the Bucky Dent home run in that game. All I remember now is getting back to the school’s lock room and hearing the game broadcast over the school’s PA system. I listened intently as the Sox had a chance to rally only to have my heart broken when Yaz popped out to end the game.
A neighbor friend of mine, a Texas fan, who proudly admits to it, was overly gleeful at the Red Sox demise that afternoon. I was so angry at the Boston loss and my friend’s joy in it, I disowned him for the day. It was his mother’s turn to give us both a ride home. But rather than ride with him, I elected to walk. I stormed off and began my trek on foot for the two or three mile journey home. His mom even stopped at one point to ask if I wanted a ride, I declined and continued to stomp my way home.
With that in mind, I find it rather amusing to see all the Red Sox fans stepping to the edge of the ledge and ready to take a flying leap on the Red Sox season. Whether it be comments I hear in person or posts I read on Facebook and discussions on sports talk radio, Red Sox Nation has been in near panic mode. Prior to last night’s exciting win, Boston had lost five straight and were already a good distance behind three teams in the AL East standings.
I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been busy and haven’t had much chance to watch the Red Sox this season. Last night’s game was the first I had seen any of this season. But I’ve followed along as fans have grown increasing nervous over Big Papi’s lack of pop, the bullpen’s failures and the lack of the superb defense that was expected. The team’s offense, which was a concern anyway, has only frayed more nerves with a lack of production.
It has all left Red Sox fans frustrated and antsy. They see a season built on high expectations slipping away fast. Only making it worse is that the dreaded Yankees are having a good start. It’s the worst nightmare for a Red Sox fan already looking forward to a possible World Series run.
They haven’t begun calling for somebody’s head but that will likely come if Boston doesn’t turn it around. Wally the Green Monster is already nervous because he’s expendable.
Frankly, I think it is early yet. Things will start to fall in place and the Red Sox will make a push and get it all together. Barring significant injury, they should have enough talent to get them into the playoffs. Then, things will really matter. They might ultimately rip our hearts out and disappoint us in the end, but the ship only has a small leak right now. It hasn’t sunk yet.
New England sports fans had it pretty easy for awhile. Between the Sox two titles, a Celtics championship and Super Bowl wins by the Patriots, it was pretty awesome being a sports fan in this area. I even made sure I gloated to the high heavens to my Texas-loving friend who has been looking over his own ledge with what’s happened with the Dallas Cowboys lately. But, with all that success during those years, we’re pretty spoiled. It’s tough to go back to these days when our teams might have a shot at a championship but may be nothing but a few steps above mediocre. The Celtics, Bruins and Patriots have all been just as aggravating as they have been exhilarating this year. The Red Sox appear to be following suit.
I’m a fan off all four of those teams and wish them all well. But, I don’t really need added aggravation. I’m sure the Celtics current playoff run will ultimately annoy me and the Bruins will eventually lose their edge on the ice. Some people might even notice. I’ve got time before the Patriots make me shake my head and the Red Sox look like they’re got a season full of roller coaster- like surges.
So, it looks like New England sports fans better take some chill pills and relax. It’s not going to be as easy as it used to be. We’re back to where we hope for greatness but expect a grating fan experience instead. There will be moments that get under our skin like fingers on a chalk board.
Me, I’ll shrug it all off and understand it is part of the fan experience, especially in New England. I learned long ago that living and dying with your team’s results most often only gets you a long walk home.