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Question: Why have fans in Boston not been following sports (specifically the Red Sox) as closely as we have in the past?
Answer: Boston fans are tired; we have taken a break from sports the last few weeks.
Professional athletes have both seasons during which they play, and off-seasons during which they re-focus. Sports fans also have both a season during which they follow their teams, and an off-season during which they do not. (This is usually the time of year that I let my girlfriend hold the remote control and end up watching the home and garden network: HGTV as a result.)
Today a ‘fan off-season’ in Boston is like a drug free day at the Winehouse residents: long overdue. Boston fans look like Rocky Balboa after going 10 rounds with Apollo Creed; they have taken one too many to the head and things are starting to get blurry. They can not continue to keep the intensity up any longer, not without a break, and the 2008 Boston Red Sox are the victims!
Fenway Park is full of pink hats like never before, and even the most loyal Sox fans are going through the type of let-down a team can go through the year after a championship. (Pink hats is a term that sports talk radio uses to define non-baseball fans that go to games because it is the cool thing to do.) Fanatics have been too intense for too long and we are now having trouble adjusting from playoff mode back into regular season baseball mode.
Note: Red Sox fans that are not Celtic fans have not had the same problem focusing and have remained fully entranced in baseball season because they have already taken their sports-fan vacation.
Question: Now that Boston fans have taken a few weeks off from following sports, why are they having such a hard time returning?
Answer: They got used to winning
Five years ago I would have been completely enthralled by the Tampa Bay series. The season is in full swing and first place is on the line, but somehow I did not find myself needing to know what happens. I feel like me from five years ago (hardened by losing) would have kicked the ass of me from today and told me to go buy a Braves hat. (In the mid 90’s Braves fans never seemed to care about any game that was played during the regular season because they were so used to winning division titles).
NESN (New England Sports Network) even felt the need to nickname an important series for the first time in recent memory: ‘Division Collision’. (And couldn’t they come up with a better name than that! My girl friend put it best: “it sounds like a math problem gone horribly wrong, and I hate math!”) Obviously NESN has noticed the lapse in intensity and is looking to end the mental vacation that a lot Sox fans have been on any way that they can.
The main problem with Division Collision (!!!) is that it is being played against the no longer satanic Rays. While the Rays are a young exciting team with great pitching and good defense, they have yet to show that they can win in October and as a result they do not strike fear in the hearts of Red Sox nation. The Yankees have EARNED the right to be hated. Tampa has not and therefore people do not feel the need to cut their “mental off-season” short. It is almost like everyone in New England knows that Boston will make the playoffs, so why lose sleep over a game in July?
Question: Why lose sleep over a game in July?
Answer: July games are what make Baseball special
Chuck Klosterman explains in his book, Sex Drugs and Coco Puffs, that even though he has felt very differently toward every love interest he has ever known, he has noticed that he can describe them all in virtually the same way and that in his opinion this makes love very “cliché”. He attempts to show this by explaining that he once sent two different girls the exact same mix-tape because the messages in the songs on the tape described how he felt about both women so accurately. (He had completely different feelings for each of them.)
Likewise, after game 6 of the NBA finals I could not describe my feelings any differently then any other member of the 15000+ people in attendance. Like everyone else I felt ‘like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders’, I was ‘jumping for joy’ and I knew that I had definitely just ‘witnessed history’.
To me the NBA championship signified the end of a season long journey that the Celtics and I had taken together and (as cliché as it is) THAT is what made this title special for me. One day it will be the ups and downs of a stressful season that I will be telling my grandchildren about, not that one drunken night in June. People who did not follow the team for the entire season can not possibly understand.
If we as Red Sox fans do not come back from our sports-fan vacation soon then we will not only miss out on the best part of the Sox season, (the part that separates the fans from the pink hats) but we will also miss out on the chance to feel more then just cliché emotions if/when the Sox do make a run in October.