It’s not easy being a Red Sox fan sometimes.
As I finish this up on Thursday, the team is enjoying a much-needed sweep over the Minnesota Twins. But last weekend, I visited Facebook and was greeted by an avalanche of dismayed comments about how the Sox had blown a 9-0 lead to lose to their despised rivals the New York Yankees 15-9. There were also a few Yankees fans among my friends who scoffed that it “Sox to be you,” apparently to make sure we keep hating those smug jerks.
If it wasn’t obvious by the fact that I found out about this dismal score via social media instead of by pulling my hair out at a sports bar, I’m not exactly the most devoted citizen of the Red Sox Nation. Indeed, the score led me to make my first check on the early season standings to find that the Sox are in the American League East basement, a place I’d thought the Tampa Bay Rays had occupied for so long that they had gotten the place furnished.
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While the score in the April 21 game drove some people to swear, jokingly or not, that they were going to start rooting for another team, it’s actually spurred me to return to my more regular check-ins on the team. When I was living in Maine, the Sox were the only team you rooted for. Unlike some other parts of New England, where borders with New York lead to a sinister influence of damnyankee carpetbaggers (enough that they’re actually the majority in Connecticut), the Down Easters love their Sox. The cable company was even nice enough to include NESN with the basic package, and though they replaced that freebie channel with Country Music Television for some ungodly reason you could still catch the radio broadcasts on a local FM station.
Team loyalty is always a finicky thing given that the team roster is always changing. I think we all remember how much we liked Johnny Damon before our own personal Jesus became a Judas and went over to New York. Checking the current players, I found that some old favorites like Youk and Big Papi are still around but quite a few others are strangers.
But if there’s one thing I’ve always loved about the Sox it’s that they’ve always been fun and inspirational. There was Jonathan Lester’s comeback from cancer, the pitchers’ “Bullpen Pirates” music, Jonathan Papelbon’s underwear jig, and any number of Green Monster clearing home runs.
Sometimes it seems like it’s easier to be an optimist when you’re not a superfan. In 2004, I was spending some time in England and watched from afar as the Yankees won the first three games of the American League Championship Series. A few friends wrote to console me on what they thought was a foregone conclusion, since no team having recovered from such a three-game deficit to go onto the World Series. I had no idea that this was the case, and simply wrote back that it was a little premature to assume a defeat when the Sox had four more chances to prove themselves. It just boiled down to a one in eight chance, really.
If the unexpected ALCS win and long-sought World Series victory in 2004 should have taught the fans anything, it’s that you never underestimate the Red Sox. Especially not when we’re just getting the season started, for crying out loud.