The Boston Red Sox' season ended last night in Game 7 of the ALCS. The last time the Sox lost in a decided Game 7 of the Championship Series was back in 2003, the old Aaron Boone classic. For Sox fans, the feeling of watching Tim Wakefield giving up the gopher ball to Boone was the most painful sports moment... probably even worse than the Tim Duncan draft lottery, the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant draft lottery, and even the New England Patriots losing the Super Bowl last year with a chance for perfection. It was that bad. The team had come so close, but ultimately it was another year, (85 at the time, but I don't think anyone was counting, without a World Series title.)
So why did last night's loss not seem to bother the fans, players, and manager like it did just 5 years ago? 1 win away from the World Series. Is it as simple as the team had won twice the previous four years? Really? I guess maybe that's good enough for some. Don't get me wrong, there are fans out there who live and die with this team, and they're not worried about 2003, 2004, 2007, or even 2009, just this team right here and right now.
Terry Francona said, and I'm paraphrasing, that he has had the most fun he's ever had the past couple of months. Wow. I guess World Series rings in '04 and '07 weren't a good time. I think winning it again would have been fun, Tito. Maybe that's just me. I don't know if this was a cheap shot at Manny Ramirez, by saying how enjoyable the past 2 months were, (the only 2 months Francona has managed the Sox without Manny). This goes back to my article "Sox Gave Away Manny," chemistry, getting alone, and having fun is important, but so is talent. The team made it further, I'll admit then I thought when they handed L.A. the division, and paid for it mind you, but still this was the defending World Series champions. Do you want to get along and have fun playing cards or win? Theo and the crew made their decision.
In 2003, on October 17th, the day after, no Red Sox fan had a productive day. Even if you were able to make it to work or school you were simply in a daze. After 11 innings and having your heart ripped out your chest Temple of Doom style you just went through the motions the next day, at best.
Today? The day after yet another Game 7 loss in the ALCS? You hear things, "They were down 3-1," "4 ALCS’s in the past 6 years," "The future is bright (we'll access this point later on)," "Patriots play the Broncos tonight," "Celtics start next week," "The Sports Brief is the best sports blog out there." OK, not all of that is being said. I still feel that a combination of winning 2 World Series rings has taken away that killer instinct (not just the 2 championships for the Sox, but look at the entire sports town).
In this decade, the New England Patriots got the whole thing started and won 3 Super Bowls, the Boston Red Sox have won 2 World Series titles, the Boston Celtics just won the NBA title, and the Bruins still have a team, so I've been told. What comes from all of this? Mainly, spoiled fans. The New England fan base has changed tremendously in the past 7-8 years. Now everyone expects their teams to win, and if they don't, well look back at all the other trophies and banners. As Besse points out for a fan base that grew tired of losing and anxious for a World Series title, it's hard to believe that it's now growing tired of winning.
Is the excitement still there? As Jalbert pointed out in his "Old School Fenway" piece, it is, but you have to look for it. It's not there as much as before with all the corporate and front running fans. For die hard fans, it can be tough, but you have to block out all of those people who can seemingly bring your experience down. Don't forget, winning championships, despite the recent trend is not easy. My grandfather has still seen the Sox win as many times as I have. Don't take the success of these teams for granted. Remember, it wasn't that long ago when I was writing letters to the Patriots to start Scott Zolak because he actually won a game.
The 2008 baseball season is over for the Sox, we'll let it marinate for just a little bit. But here comes the off season. And this isn't an off season coming of a World Series title, where you have to debate on whether you even need a guy like Johan Santana. No, this will be different. Health, free agents, trades, will be more important this time around. And don't look now, but the American League champs just got better last night, during the game... David Price is here to stay.