Calling Out Boston Sports Fans

Sports are like a rollercoaster. Many ups, many downs. Now thanks to Sir Isaac Newton and the Law of Gravity, whatever goes up must come down.

Last year Boston was on top of the national sports rollercoaster. The Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics dominated their respective leagues and Boston College won their second Division I NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship this decade. Sports in Boston could not have been better. There was no reason to whine or complain about Terry Francona, Bill Belichick or Doc Rivers. Fans, who were once described as the “most miserable fans” were finally happy. 2007 was the Boston Bull market.

2008…is the Boston Bear market.

Trying to become the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the Patriots suffered one of their most crushing defeats at the hands of the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII to end their season at 18-1. Then in their search for redemption, the Pats lost their franchise player, Tom Brady, for the year just seven minutes into the 2008 season with a torn ACL and MCL. Matt Cassel is no Brady but he is still a respectable NFL quarterback that could have started at any Division I college, if he chose, after Matt Leinart won the starting job, at USC, but many fans still turned their back. (I.E. leaving in the middle of the fourth quarter against the Dolphins down 38-13.)

The Red Sox finished the 2008 campaign just one game worse than they finished last year but you would never think that if you listened to some of the calls into WEEI. If you compare the 2007 season to driving along I-75 in Florida without a cloud in the sky, then the 2008 season was similar to driving around the streets of Boston in a 20-year-old Ford with no suspension.

The road to the post-season was tumultuous. Two of the key players that led the Sox to the World Series victory a year ago suffered injuries that affected their play on the field (Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell). Then there was the whole Manny-Saga in the middle of the season, but the Sox were still good enough to get to the ALCS. And who could forget Jon Lester’s spectacular no-hit performance against the Kansas City Royals back in May. Yet for some fans that is not good enough.

Boston fans have become so accustomed to winning many fans almost expect to win and when they do not it is a complete shock. Last year at the Celtics parade, I saw a child holding a sign reading “Nine Years Old, Six Parades,” and it really made me think, fans really have started to become complacent. Since when is a 95-67 season a bad season? Or 10-6 a bad season?

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots have given us three Super Bowl Championships in four years from 2001-2004 but there was a time, not two long ago, when they were the worst team in the league. Terry Francona and the Red Sox have brought us two World Series Championships in the last five years but there was that 86-year-time span when the Sox did not win a single championship.

Boston sports is not the same as it was five years ago. Five years ago, when Aaron Boone’s homerun landed in Yankee Stadium’s second deck in left, the feeling was different. Sure it was like some one just punched you in the gut but the Sox were not expected to win. In 2003, the Yankees were still the favorites. Now three games down to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox expected to pull out a third dramatic three-consecutive-win comeback like they did in 2004 and last year.

Now do not get me wrong, I want the Sox to win more than anyone but I am not expecting anything. Do I think the Sox bats have it in them to win Game Five against Scott Kazmir? Yes. But expecting them to make a comeback is not giving due respect to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays worked just as hard as the Sox from February to October to be in position they are in.

What the Red Sox have done four years ago and last year, does not have any effect on the here and now. It is like saying, I got an ‘A’ on a paper last week, I am going to get an ‘A’ again this week. It is wishful thinking and you are hoping for it but it does not mean it is going to happen.

The post-season is supposed to be a reward for preparing and playing well from February to September. You do not automatically get there by throwing your hat onto the field saying “we’re the defending champs” because there are 29 other teams out there looking to knock you off. And every step of the way in the post-season is a bigger reward with the biggest reward being the last one standing, holding the World Series trophy.

In Boston we have hit the peek of the “Yankee Cannonball” with six championships from three sports in nine years, we must be ready and capable “to take the good, with the bad.” And I want to leave you with one last quote:

“What comes easily, goes just as easily.”

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