At Colgate, you often find yourself telling people where you’re from. Whether it’s that awkward first few weeks of first-year where you’re even introducing yourself to the person in front of you in line at Frank (especially if they’re an attractive female), to fraternity/sorority rush, to people in your new dorm, you’re making a lot of freaking introductions. For me, telling someone where I’m from always comes in two parts. Sure, I currently live in the thriving metropolis of Schenectady, New York, which is where I’ve spent the better part of the last 12 years. However, my heart will always still belong to Boston, Massachusetts, where I spent my first seven years.
The 90s were a pretty crappy time to be a Boston sports fan. You may say I was just a young’un and didn’t have a clue what was going on, but trust me, I knew exactly what was happening. Rick Pitino was driving the Celtics into the ground, the Bruins hadn’t done anything since the days of Bobby Orr, we were in the thick of the miserable Pete Carroll era with the Patriots and the Sox were still dealing with this whole curse thing. Boston may be Titletown, USA, for now, but it truly was a different place in the 90s. We expected our teams to fail and, more often than not, they did us proud.
This was also a time when Fenway Park wasn’t coming close to selling out and bleacher seats were going for a bit less than eighty bucks on StubHub. It seems hard to comprehend now, but the Red Sox did this thing were they gave local clergy members passes that allowed them to come to the game a few innings late. Then the clergy and their families could take any unoccupied seats they wanted free of charge. Since my mom was a chaplain at Wellesley College at the time, we used that pass to go to more Red Sox games than I could count.
Even though we moved in the summer of 2000, my relationship with the Red Sox was already forever cemented, for better or worse. The last decade as a Sox fan was filled with incredible highs and lows. During the 2003 ALCS, I was only in sixth grade so I went to bed right before extra innings started. Needless to say, I was dying to know how the game turned out. When I turned on SportsCenter the next morning to see Aaron Boone had pulled his shenanigans, I literally balled my eyes out for two straight hours and went late to school. I still wore a Red Sox shirt that day, because I loved that team and was damn proud to be a Red Sox fan, even in defeat.
Then, 2004 happened. That wasn’t just a special team because of what they accomplished on the field, reversing jabs from New York Yankees fans about the Bambino, but because they had an identity. They were truly a cast of characters that were incredibly fun to root for and that you felt you had a connection with. There was obviously the clownish superstar Manny and, yes, I’ll always love him even if he was popping fertility pills like candy his entire career. There was also Big Papi, but most of that team was gritty everyday players along the likes of Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller and Jason Varitek. Even when I watch the replays of the 2004 ALCS games, I still don’t feel like we’re going to pull it off because it truly was a group of misfits against an all-star squad. If you want to put it in historical terms, they were like the Hessians and we were just a few farmers with ragged clothes and barely functional muskets trying to call ourselves the Continental Army. That’s a big reason why we loved them – we could identify.
What’s always made it easy to sip the hater-ade in regard to the Yankees, other than the fact that they’re the freaking Yankees, is that they’ve felt like a collection of expensive hired guns. Things aren’t that way anymore, though. As we continue to splurge on free agents, the Red Sox are becoming more and more like the Yankees – a collection of great players, but not a team. As much as Adrian Gonzalez is probably a very good dude and certainly one heck of a ballplayer, he still doesn’t feel like a Red Sock. Neither does Carl Crawford, whose signing was a worse idea than any of Larry King’s last five marriages. Signing him was like signing another Jacoby Ellsbury, only a much older, much worse version that we’re obligated to pay about $120 million over the next six years. Then there’s John Lackey, J.D. Drew and Dice-K, who make more combined than the Kansas City Royals.
So, how shocking was it when, after the Red Sox did their best Mets impression and blew a seemingly untouchable lead, that reports surfaced about things that were out of whack in the clubhouse. This team had no leader and no backbone, so when everything went awry there was no one to keep things together. Sure, Terry Francona has to take some blame because it was literally his job to do everything I just said, and 7-21 in a month is inexcusable even if you’re the Houston Astros, but this wasn’t just his fault. So, with Tito and Epstein gone, things are going to undoubtedly change. How so remains to be seen.
Although the curse era was in many ways more miserable than February in Hamilton, I could at least identify those teams. We were the good guys, the Yankees were the big bad guys, and that was the way it’s supposed to be. I miss those days.
Contact Pete Koehler at [email protected]