Thursday, April 19, 2007

Before we get to tonight's post, I want to address something that came up in the comments on my last post. An anonymous reader called me a blowhard. While I'm quaking with shame, I'm also wondering, how many cool people have made a habit of using the word blowhard. Without having done the necessary legwork, I can't go ahead and say zero, but I'm going out on a limb and saying that it's in the low single digits. By the bye, I am leaving the kobrakommander out of that particular generalization, as he quickly came to my defense and used the word blowhard in turning the anonymous comment on its ear. And now, on with the show...


I know I just did a GREAT MOMENT IN RED SOX HISTORY installment two days ago, but I've been planning on this one for a long time now. I've been waiting for the eve of the first Sox-Yanks series to remind Red Sox fans that they are hypocrites. On May 1st last season, Red Sox fans (with a few exceptions) showed themselves to be classless idiots when Johnny Damon returned to town for the first time in a Yankee uniform.

Some fans did cheer him when he returned, remembering his accomplishments as the catalyst for the championship team in 2004. The majority of the fans were not quite so nostalgic, however, and Damon was booed each time he came to the plate. provided a slideshow to document fan reaction. It was not a particularly stellar moment for New Englanders.

Red Sox fans called Damon a sellout, a traitor and other names in that vein. I found it fascinating then, and I still do today. In the end, after all, it's not as though Damon was a Red Sox draft pick. He didn't come up through Lowell, Trenton and Pawtucket. The Red Sox signed him as a free agent because they could offer him more money than Oakland could. Oakland in turn got him via trade with the Kansas City Royals, who were forced to trade him because they couldn't afford to keep him.

Apparently, baseball is only allowed to be a heartless, bottom-line driven industry only so long as it benefits the Red Sox. Yes, the Red Sox stepped in and signed a player that other teams wanted but could not afford. But that's where the cycle was to stop. The Red Sox were supposed to be the other team to end all other teams, which would make them the mother of all other teams (the line comes from an episode of Becker).

Unfortunately, that's not the way it worked out. Even though the fans with the gruff, cynical, Puritan-inspired exterior hiding a collective heart of gold embraced their idiosyncratic caveman center fielder, Damon departed for the greener pastures of the hated Evil Empire. Suddenly, Red Sox fans were able to ignore the past and assume their favored position - victim of Yankee aggression. And at the end of the day, nothing riles up Sox fans like the chance to gang up on a convenient target.

This particular image from the slideshow captures the spirit of the crowd that night.

It is convenient to assume that Damon is a traitor and a liar and harbor for any of a whole host of dishonorable traits. It helps people look past the business practices of their own team management.

That's what bothers me most about Red Sox fans. They can ignore the fact that Damon left two other teams before he left Boston because he is a mercenary player in a mercenary business. Red Sox Nation can somehow delude themselves into thinking that theirs is the only organization worthy of loyalty. New Englanders can look at a chart displaying the payroll figures for every team and see only the gap between the Yankees and the Olde Towne Team. They never seem to notice the two dozen odd teams in their own rearview mirror.

Red Sox Nation has an incredible gift for swallowing the propaganda that comes out of the team owners' mouths. How many asked the team if it did all it could to keep Damon? How many asked themselves exactly how loyal they would be to a baseball team if there were a question of $3 million per year in the balance? How many have wondered whether team management has a long term strategy other than simply trying to out-Herod Herod?

At this point, after more than two decades of living in the Boston area, Red Sox fans have begun to remind me of the citizens of Oceania from Orwell's classic 1984. The team sits in the center of the web, like the Ministry of Truth, revising its own campaign of misinformation each time a situation comes up (like Damon leaving for the Yankees) so that no matter what has happened the team tries to get the fans to believe that it is victim or victor. And the self-proclaimed most intelligent fans in the nation swallow it hook, line and sinker.

I don't think it's too early to wonder how the process will play out should the team decide that life no longer begins at forty for baseball players in the post-performance enhancing drugs era and Big Schill should take 38pitches to another city. How will Henry and his crew spin that tragedy?

No comments: