September 28, 2007

Re: Why No One Likes Boston Fans

Alec’s miscalculated assertion brings to mind the story of the British journalist who began his report of the American presidential election with the phrase, “It was raining on election day in America…” The joke, obviously, is that it is always raining somewhere in America, but the poor writer was trying so hard to find an angle he failed to look at the bigger picture.The truth is, Boston sports fans don’t care about the new “Red Sox Nation.” Just take a look at the “news organizations” that are covering the story. There’s NESN—owned by the Boston Red Sox, who created the whole contest—and a tiny amount of Boston Globe coverage, mainly because NESN is making such a big deal out of it. Outside of those two outlets, the rest of the coverage has come almost exclusively from outside voices like Alec’s, attempting to lampoon a situation that was never taken seriously to begin with.(As an aside, the term “Red Sox nation” is actually 21 years old and makes perfect sense when you think about—the fan base extends well into maritime Canada, New York state, and all of New England, and it often accounts for half of the crowd in cities like Tampa Bay, Phoenix, and San Diego. There are Red Sox bars in the heart of New York City and Washington, as well as Kyoto, Japan. Seems like quite an interesting phenomenon, does it not?)As an actual Boston area native, I can safely say that I do not directly know anyone who is a member of “Red Sox Nation,” nor do I know anyone who cares about the presidential race. How anyone outside of NESN, let alone New England, could seriously believe that it is a big deal is beyond me.Alec bases his entire argument on a faulty premise—that people who pay upwards of $30 a year to sign up for a team-sponsored fan club with only marginal benefits (including a wallet-sized membership card!) are somehow the best representation of an entire region’s fan base. As an econ major he should understand that such a sampling is hardly representative of the average New England sports fan.When it comes to his recollection of the beginnings of Patriots fandom, Alec’s memory is selective at best and flat out erroneous at worst. If there was very little enthusiasm for the Patriot’s Super Bowl team in 1994, it was probably because the Patriots didn’t play in the Super Bowl in 1994 (although they were a playoff team for the first time in eight years). However, that (and not 2003) was the year the really rekindled the fan base, with a competent coach (Bill Parcells) and the first potential franchise player in team history in Drew Bledsoe (!!!). From that point on, the Patriots were right up there with the Red Sox. When the owner threatened to relocate to Hartford, the city was in fact indignant. So unwittingly, Alec is correct when he says we “didn’t blink”—we stared the proposal down.The switch to becoming a football town reflects changes across the American sporting landscape, and were in no way unique to Boston. The decline in popularity of the NHL and NBA were not unique to Boston. I guess Boston was a baseball and hockey town at one point—if only for a couple of years in the mid 1970s—but its unrealistic to expect a team in any sport to maintain a sizable fan base when it shows no commitment whatsoever to providing the fans with a decent product. Hence, BC and BU consistently sell out while the Bruins do not.Alec laments that the true fans sit idly by rather than “restore order” to the region. What exactly does he expect? An armed insurrection? True fans in “El Guapo” jerseys imposing a curfew and patrolling Comm. Ave. on game nights to weed out the wannabe fans with pink hats? We couldn’t resort to violence now if we tried anyways—We are all Jacoby’s Witnesses now.UPDATE: I should add that I thought Alec voiced much more legitimate concerns in a column last fall for sports, on the eve of the Daisuke Matsuzaka signing.