It’s the most polarizing pronoun in the sports world: We. Using this will cause you to frequently encounter snarky replies like “Oh were you on the field?” (No, genius, that stuff gets you fined and jailed these days.) Or “what number do you wear?” (Trot Nixon’s #7, obviously…no, not J.D. Drew’s #7, Trot’s.) Last year someone overheard me say “We’re in Baltimore right now” and corrected me, since I was actually in New York. When I told her I was referring to my baseball team she started scrolling through her contacts for her psychiatrist’s emergency line.
But for me, when I speak of the Boston Red Sox, I proudly use we. The only other sporting entities that get this treatment from me are United States teams, during the World Cup, Ryder Cup, and the Olympics. Those teams represent us. If you’re an American, when you talk about the Olympics you should say “We are cleaning up in the Medal Count” not “They are cleaning up in the Medal Count” right? That’s because at your core, it is who you are. That is the way that some of us feel about the Red Sox. If you cut me open, I would bleed red. Ok, fine, so would you…but I would bleed red, midnight navy, and white.
This isn’t a team I picked up during their miraculous 2004 run. It wasn’t a bandwagon that I jumped on when the Lovable Losers suddenly turned into America’s Team for a brief stint before encountering the inevitable popularity backlash. No, this is a team that I grew up rooting for as far back as I can remember. One of my clearest memories from 1st grade was being picked on by Mets fans after the 1986 World Series. For three glorious summers of my childhood I lived with my grandparents in Maine for several weeks each year. After dinner was done we would turn on the game (sometimes on the radio, but the best days were the days when the games were on TV) and play cribbage while rooting for something that seemed like an impossible dream. That stretch featured some miserable teams, averaging 79 wins a season over those three years. Those Boston teams were so bad that I actually grew up thinking that Tom Brunansky and Carlos Quintana were good…because compared to guys like Ivan Calderon and Steve Lyons they were.
(Brief Side Note: I met Steve Lyons once at O’Hare. I was young, like 19. I said “I liked you as a player, but I love you on TV” thinking that this was a legitimate compliment. Suffice it to say the backhanded nature of the compliment was not lost on him.)
So, when I say “we” for the Red Sox, it’s not something that I stumbled into recently or lightly. There’s an investment there that goes back as far as I can remember. David Ortiz is currently the longest tenured active Red Sox player, he’s been with the team since the 2003 season. Heading into his 11th year? That’s decent. My Dad’s childhood idol, Carl Yastrzemski put together an incredible 23 year stretch with the Olde Towne Team. Me? I’m heading into my 27th season, with 1986 being the first one that I can remember. That’s 25 years of disappointment (some much worse than others, hat tip to 1999 and 2003 when I was right at the age where this stuff means way more than it should) and 2 years of absolute baseball euphoria.
I’ve often said that my least favorite fans in baseball aren’t Yankee fans, but new era Red Sox fans. I’m talking about the “Pink Hats” who still stand up and sing “Sweet Caroline” in the 8th inning after “their” team turned a 9-0 lead against the Yankees into a 15-9 deficit. Pre-2004, people would treat me like I had a terminal disease. “Oh man…the Red Sox, really? I’m so sorry. How did that happen? Did you inherit it from your family? That’s heartbreaking.” Now, I feel like I need to make sure that people know that I’ve been around for the long haul, and that I’m not going anywhere in the future.
To me, that’s what a lot of it boils down to. The Red Sox are my team in 69 win seasons, and in 96 win seasons. I’m not leaving no matter what another team has to offer. The Rays have a farm system so loaded that it’s hard not to be jealous, but would I ever in a million years walk away from the Sox and become a Rays fan? Are you kidding me? Did you forget how I feel about Joe Maddon? I’m not going anywhere else, no matter what.
Are you really going to argue that a hired mercenary like Johnny Damon, who came to Boston when we offered him the most money and left the moment he had a better deal, gets to refer to the Red Sox as “we” and I don’t? The day he signed with the Yankees was a rude awakening for me as a sports fan. The majority of players don’t care about the team or franchise they represent. They’re all there to collect a paycheck, and sometimes you’re lucky enough to root for players who even care about winning (insert your own obligatory J.D. Drew joke here).
Do you really think that Jacoby Ellsbury is going to be torn between staying in Boston for what Ben Cherington and the owners have pre-determined as fair market value when the Mariners are offering him 7 years/$140M? Guess what? You don’t sign with Scott Boras unless you plan to make your free agency into a straight cash grab. (Except for you Jered Weaver, I didn’t forget about you.)
So, I will continue to believe that what jersey I wear and where I sit has an impact on the outcome of the games. I will continue to faux-spit on my hands and clap in unison with Big Papi every single time they show him doing that on TV (a tradition unlike any other since 2004, much to the dismay of my then girlfriend, now wife. You would think she’d get used to it 9 years in, but you’d be wrong. But hey, it worked wonders in 2004, I can’t stop now! She will probably cry real tears of joy when he retires). I will continue to live and die with my team everyday, even in seasons that seemingly involve a lot more dying than living. In exchange for that undying love and commitment, I will refer to the Red Sox as “we”.
Now if you’ll excuse me, we have some Spring Training games against Northeastern University and Boston College to get to today.