Here’s something you probably didn’t know about me, even though we may have never met: I’m a Red Sox fan, but I used to root for the New York Yankees.
As a kid growing up in Rhode Island, the Tri-Guido-County areas dictated enemy lines for Yankees and Red Sox fans. Thanks to my lack of geographical direction, I’m not too sure which side I was on, but I knew that I liked rooting for winners, and in the late ‘90s/early 2000s, the Yankees were the biggest winner.
Of course, I was a casual baseball fan back then. By casual, I mean that I watched the team when they were winning, collected Derek Jeter baseball cards and may or may not have bought a red Yankees cap, similar to the one Fred Durst wore. I was, unfortunately, the poster boy for pink hat fan’s as a teenager. But with hockey and football as my sports, I thought it was somewhat acceptable to root for a baseball team who just won all the time. It wasn’t like the Bruins or Patriots were winning anything for me … yet.
So what happened to my pink-hat ways? Thankfully, I grew up and moved to Boston where the city’s culture forced me to become a baseball junkie (as did years of fantasy baseball). The move forced me to turn in my pink, I mean red Yankees hat for a Red Sox hat. I resisted at first – seriously, I did – before succumbing to the pressures of my friends and the city.
The Red Sox were the perennial underdogs; a group of guys who you could get behind, not because they were a team of All-Stars or the highest-paid players, but because they wanted to win, and erase lifetimes of losing in Boston. The team had been consistently deserving of a “Good job, good effort” meme up until 2004, and it was endearing. But in 2004, everything changed, and then, for good measure, everything changed again in 2007.
Along with the Patriots, the Red Sox became the toast of the town, while the Bruins and Celtics wallowed in mediocrity, turning around the city’s sports focus. The change lasted until 2008 when the Celtics won and earned back their respect and the Bruins regained their status after winning in 2011.
In the span of 10 years, Boston sports teams claimed a total of seven championships. Prior to 2002 (when the Patriots won their first Super Bowl) it might have taken the city of Boston 30 years to reach that number, and it would have only been because of the Celtics’ torrid run in the late 70s and 80s, and the Bruins sole Cup in ‘72.
After the seven titles, Boston wasn’t the home of the underdog anymore. The city and its teams became the favorites. Boston was the city with the parades, the highest payrolls and the seemingly sold-out games. Everyone was a fan, too – for better or worse. And by winning, Boston got what they’ve always wanted: to be exactly like New York.
Championships do strange things to teams and in turn, cities. Win a few and you’ll have a target on your back for years to come. The same fans who might have been rooting for the Patriots to upset the Rams, the Red Sox to stun the Yankees right before sweeping the Cardinals, the Celtics to silence the Lakers and the Bruins to shock the Canucks, probably despise those teams now. And can you blame them? Pair those wins with embarrassing moments like Spygate (ugh), White Housegate (ugh) and Bobby Valentine (UGH), and what do you expect to happen?
In becoming New York, the Boston sports scene turned into everything Boston sports fans hated about their rival city. And now, New York’s teams and players have become … umm … well, likeable. Right now I could say something positive about every New York team sans the Jets, because frankly, the Jets are still the worst. But this was never the case before. When the Bruins were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, who did I root for? The Rangers: a New York team I grew up hating.
While Boston still has plenty of likeable, hard-working athletes there are a hell of a lot of guys who are considered to be flat-out jerks. New York doesn’t have that same stigma anymore. New York has the universally appreciated Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan, Victor Cruz and Curtis Granderson, and Jeter and Mariano Rivera are on an even higher level. Sure, New York still boasts some jerks, but the bad apples are clearly outnumbered.
It’s become the complete opposite in Boston. Yes, there’s Patrice Bergeron, Paul Pierce and Dustin Pedroia, but take a look around at fans from the sports world fans and look at how many non-Bostonians hate Boston athletes. How many outsiders are cheering for Tom Brady nowadays? Or what about Tim Thomas? Feel-good stories (like the ones Brady and Thomas shared) get tainted once the ultimate goal is reached and not reached repeatedly, and those two former postseason heroes are experiencing that now have postseason failures.
I guess this is all part of the unspoken trade-off for success: win championships and you will be hated. I get it. But if Boston is going to be New York, the only thing I want to know is if we can give some of our bandwagon fans to New York? We never asked for them.