Confessions of a former Boston Red Sox fan - why I hope my baseball team have a dreadful season

Fenway Park - home to the Boston Red Sox
Cormac Eklof recently used his IrishCentral blog to attack Red Sox fans for their disgraceful behavior at Fenway Park during a game last week. Under a new manager, Bobby Valentine, and beset with injury problems, the Sox are off to a lousy start and their extremely upset fans are lashing out at all those whom they hold responsible.

It is at times like these that I am glad to be away from Boston’s sports talk radio stations and their legions of angry callers. These rather sad individuals whose outlook on life is invariably shaped by the fortunes of the Boston professional sports franchises were famously branded the “fellowship of the miserable” by the former coach of the Boston Celtics, Rick Pitino.

He was right. Although I remain a proud Boston sports fan and still follow my home teams closely from 3,000 miles away, I believe that things have gone too far when it comes to the Red Sox.

In fact, things went too far a number of years ago. Like everyone else from the Boston area, I celebrated deliriously when the Red Sox made an extraordinarily improbable comeback against the old enemy, the New York Yankees, in the 2004 American League Championship Series and then swept to victory in the World Series.

While talking to my brother and hearing The Standells’ ode to my home city, “Dirty Water,” reverberating through the streets of Boston, I broke down and cried in a Galway pub that I was locked into in the wee hours of the morning. It truly was an amazing time to be a Bostonian.

The 2007 World Series title was sweet too. Over the last ten to fifteen years, however, something went seriously awry. The franchise and a lot of fans lost all sense of perspective. Many Red Sox fans in 2012 – citizens of that particularly odious, mythical “Red Sox Nation,” I suppose – don’t remotely resemble the typical, dyed in the wool fans that passionately followed a lackluster team during the early 1980s when I came of age as a fan. Ralph Houk was the manager; I never missed a game on television; and I frequently went to Fenway Park to see the team play. They nearly always lost. So in addition to agreeing with Cormac Eklof’s point that Sox fans disgraced themselves at Fenway the other night, I would go even further.

I hope the Red Sox have a dreadful season. Actually, I hope they have several dreadful seasons. Here are a few reasons why.

First, several bad seasons just might make the owners think about building a new ballpark to start anew. Yes, I am questioning the sanctity of Fenway Park. In truth, I hate the place. In American parlance, it’s a dump. In Irish speak, it’s a kip. The park is too small, dirty, lacking in amenities, horribly uncomfortable for anyone of above average height and a relic of a long gone era.

Many of my fellow Bostonians have somehow developed an emotional attachment to Fenway and defend their sentiment with the practical point that modern sports stadiums are often soulless. They have clearly never been to Baltimore’s Camden Yards or a number of other magnificent ballparks that, while new, retain a sense of all that is great about the old.

Second, several bad seasons would likely encourage some of the newer, quite annoying citizens of “Red Sox Nation” to abandon a sinking ship. These are Red Sox converts who never paid much attention to the Red Sox before they started to win. They seem oblivious to the reality that the team’s success in recent years isn’t any miracle, but a natural consequence of having one of the largest payrolls of any franchise in the game.

Baseball, which lacks a salary cap such as exists in American football, is controlled largely by the almighty dollar. Moreover, these new fans typically view Red Sox games as a social occasion more than anything else and, in 9 cases out of 10, speak without even the slightest hint of what gives Boston area natives our identity: our accent. In their stead, I’d gladly welcome back the fans I remember from the early 1980s who’ve been so alienated by “Red Sox Nation.”

Third, and most importantly, a few losing seasons might bring the prices of tickets, concessions, parking and all the other attendant costs of going to a Red Sox game back down to earth.

As it stands now, only the super rich can afford to take their families to see the Red Sox at Fenway Park. The cost of a ticket is exorbitant. The cost of a hot dog is extortionate. And the cost of parking is highway robbery.

A mere passing glance at the spectators in the stands reveals that the crowd is dominated by young, single professionals. They are the only ones who can afford to go to games regularly.

It is a terrible shame that most young children are now denied the same opportunities that almost all of us who grew up in the Boston area had to attend games with our families.

I’m certain that many Bostonians, including most of my friends, will say that I am a traitor. I am not a traitor. It’s not me who has changed; it’s my hometown team and its fan base that have changed.

It was great to win the World Series (twice!) and be rid of Babe Ruth’s “curse” once and for all. But it is past time to cast off the excesses that have come with success and to remember who we always have been and what has always separated us from our fellow baseball fans in New York and elsewhere.

I believe that a few losing seasons would serve to cast off the excesses expeditiously. This is a price I’d be happy to pay because I’d love to be a passionate fan again.

It would be great to go back home to Boston in the summer with my own family and to see the Red Sox play in a new, yet timeless, ballpark, surrounded by authentic fans and ordinary families.

Given the continued enthusiasm and seemingly insatiable appetite for the status quo, however, I’m not holding my breath.

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