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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Friday, September 10, 2004

Fenway Whine

One thing I learned about living in Connecticut is that only two baseball teams exist as far as the state is concerned - the Yankees and Red Sox. Sure, there may be other teams in baseball, but to someone in the Nutmeg State, their sole purpose is to play against the Yankees and Red Sox and influence their places in the standings.

Usually, because Bristol is just about halfway between Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, people around there want you to choose sides as well. And I refuse, partly because I'm a Phillies fan and I don't want to pick another team, even if it's an AL team, but also partly because fans of both teams strike me as extremely obnoxious.

Yankees fans feel as though a yearly World Series championship is their birthright, and applaud their Machiavellian leader, George Steinbrenner, and his minions for spending a small country's GNP to ensure that this happens. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that the Yankees are an American icon, seeing how they've won about a quarter of the World Series ever played. But that sense of entitlement and superiority is pretty grating.

Red Sox fans, on the other hand, live to complain. No matter what pain you are suffering, a Red Sox fan's pain is infinitely worse from his point of view. Never mind the fact that the Sox have reached the playoffs in seven of the past 18 years and have only had five losing seasons in the last 20 years. Only one number matters to the Sox fans - 1918, the last year in which they won a World Series.

As a Phillies fan, this irritates me to no end. A Red Sox fan would be quick to point out that the Phillies have won a World Series as recently as 1980 (By the way, that's the Phils' only championship. The Sox have won five). But do you know how the Phillies have done recently? They've made one playoff appearance in the past 21 years. In that stretch they have had four winning seasons. So Red Sox fans can complain all they want, but the bottom line is that a competitive team is the standard at Fenway, which is not the case in Philly. Boston has no idea how good it has it.

On the other hand, I have a weird feeling that deep down, Red Sox fans would lose their identity if their team actually won a championship. The entire existence of Sox fans is predicated on their team's long championship drought (by the way, the White Sox and Cubs both have longer droughts, and they don't whine as much). If the Red Sox ever won a Series, I think Boston would be euphoric for a few months, but then the next season would start, and then what?

They couldn't boast about how they've suffered for so long. A championship would be fresh in their minds. And without that badge of suffering, a Red Sox fan is really just like a Yankees fan. Incomprehensibly ignoring everything outside the rivalry with the other team, spending unbelievable amounts of money just to outdo the other...both teams do this. And once the Sox win, the "lovable loser" charm vanishes. Because really, the Sox aren't losers. They win all the time - just not a World Series.

You want a loser? Take a look at the Phillies. No team in the history of professional sports has lost as many games as the Phils. But while Red Sox fans are long-suffering beacons of hope, Philly fans are bitter, mean codgers.

And in true Philly spirit, I say f--- that.