Thursday, October 9, 2008

The loser mentality and you: Just say "no!"

Way back in 1996, I had an RA who was a die hard fan of the Yankees (and the Cowboys, Celtics, Fighting Irish, and... HARTFORD WHALERS?!?!?). He was a great RA and an all around good guy despite the fact that he rooted for the baseball equivalent of Satan. Once, just to infuriate most of the people around him, he described the Red Sox fans as embracing a "loser mentality". For the past 12 years, I thought he was just insulting us and I took it as a throw away line. But now I'm starting to understand what he was talking about.

Why is it so many Red Sox fans are unwilling - or unable - to embrace a team that actually wins? It makes no sense. You root for a team in hopes that they finally win a championship. Too many idiots in the fan base and the general media (especially - for some inscrutable reason- the Sox-centric Globe) have recoiled from the Sox because they're too successful. My question is why.

It's not like New Englanders are afraid of success in sports. No one gave up on the Orr/Esposito era Bruins when they won Stanley Cups. They became more popular. The Russell era Celtics didn't start out popular, but they got more and more popular as they started hording titles. The Patriot's burst of popularity started with the hiring of Bill Parcells drafting Drew Bledsoe in 1993 and despite some lows at the end of the Pete Carroll era, they've maintained a decent level of popularity even after the disasters of the past couple of years. Anyone jumping off the bandwagon because Spygate or the Brady probably doesn't care about football to begin with, but at least they aren't scared off by success. The Patriots were every bit as incompetent as the Red Sox were before 2004 (add pre 08' Celtics and the current Bruins to that mix). And on a college front, I don't see a lot of UCONN basketball fans or BU, BC and Maine hockey fans complaining that their teams are too successful. So why Red Sox fans?

Let's take a look at some of arguments why we shouldn't root for the Red Sox:

"The Red Sox have become the Yankees"- What does this even mean? Are they wearing pinstripes? Are they playing Sinatra after every home game? Despite the fact that they're the Yankees and we all hate them, what is it that the Yankees do that is egregious? Spend money? Win a lot? Oh shame on the Steinbrenners for trying to win! Don't they realize that the main point of owning a team is to underachieve and impress other fanbase by your "classy" refusal to win. Do we really hate the Yankees that much that we don't want to win 26 championships?

Does anything say "loser" more than hating the Yankees more than you like the Red Sox?

"The Red Sox buy championships"- Not only does this betray a comically insane view of capitalism (professional sports teams shouldn't spend money? They should pay players using the barter system?) but it also displays a breathtakingly ignorant view of Red Sox history. When Tom Yawkey's underachieving teams were referred to as "country club " teams, it wasn't just because they were lily-white. It was because Yawkey foolishly spent on high priced veterans who couldn't deliver. Bad news people: the Red Sox had the highest payroll in baseball for years, and couldn't get within sniffing distance of a pennant. That happened 50 years ago. To pretend that the Sox have always been a plucky yet cheap small market team is beyond stupid.
Spending money is no guarantee of success: ask the Yankees, Mets and Tigers, all of whom have higher payrolls than the Red Sox. Meanwhile, the Marlins, A's, Twins, Cardinals, Rockies, and Rays all make deep post season runs with payrolls a fraction of the Yankees. Money buys you nothing if not invested wisely. Rather than crediting the Red Sox with spending wisely, the critics imagine that they're buying a title. You can't.

"They don't feel like my team. I miss Ted Williams/Yaz/Manny, etc."- They wear the same uniform and play home games at Fenway Park. Of course they're your team. Why don't they "feel" like your team? And bad news, everyone. Yaz isn't playing. He hasn't played since 1983. I don't see George Scott, Dom Dimaggio, Bill Lee and Dwight Evans out there either. Someone alert the authorities! Strangely enough, baseball players don't play baseball their entire lives. Some times they get traded or - in the case of Manny - attempt to destroy everything around them until we have no choice in the matter. It's a fact of life.

"I can't stand Red Sox Nation/Wally/the Pink Hats/et al"- Then don't pay attention to them. I admit, these things are annoying. But I don't ALLOW them to take away from my enjoyment of the game. The same goes for people who can't stand Neil Diamond, the Dropkick Murphies or the Standells. I've somehow learned to deal with the fact that the classic rock station plays "Hotel California" 72 times a day and so can you! Are so many Red Sox fans that mentally weak?

"The fans annoy me"- The fans annoy me too. I root for the team. Not the fans. We just happen to all root for the Red Sox. By the way, Boston fans have always been this annoying. We just notice because there are more of them. Success means the fan base gets bigger which means there are more chances to annoy you.

"the Rays are more like the Red Sox"- There are a bunch of teams that remind me of the Red Sox. The White Sox are kind of like the Red Sox since they're named after hosiery! The Cubs have that "will we ever win?" desperation the Sox used to have. The Indians and Braves have similar uniforms. The Mets pre-playoff collapses usher in delightful memories of 1991 and 2006. Kevin Millar plays for the Orioles which makes them kind of like the Red Sox in that the Red Sox used to have Kevin Millar on their team.
This is such an inane argument that it beggars the imagination. This is like rooting for the Brewers because I really liked "Mr. Belvidere".

"I can't afford to go to games at Fenway"- Then don't. Support the team by listening to the radio, watching NESN, or even going to sports bar to watch them play. I haven't gone to a Bruins, Celtics, or Patriots team in years and I don't feel like my experience as a fan has been lessened in any way. It's not like I can hop a plane to Glasgow every Saturday to watch the Hoops play...

In summation, if you want to stop rooting for the Red Sox, I can't stop you. But I can at least point out that you're arguments are idiotic and being addicting to losing is foolish. Just say "no" to the loser mentality and embrace a team. Even if they win.

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