Red Sox Nation: Understanding a Growing Phenomenon

Pro Football NYCSenior Writer IApril 5, 2009

BOSTON - OCTOBER 16:  Fans of the Boston Red Sox celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in game five of the American League Championship Series during the 2008 MLB playoffs at Fenway Park on October 16, 2008 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox defeated the Rays 8-7 to set the series at 3-2 Rays. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I had to find out: Just what makes this group tick?

I'm a life-long New York Mets fan approaching 50 years of age. I have been following Major League Baseball for as long as I can recall and have been to many games in many cities. Needless to say, I've interacted with fans from all walks of life.

New York has two very popular baseball teams: the elite, historic, decorated Yankees and the Mets, the team that never fails to disappoint.

I did not know until this weekend, when I visited Citi Field for the first time, that there was a third team in New York: the Boston Red Sox.

Now, we have almost nine million people in this city, and there are tons of sports fans who may root for the provincial favorites, clubs from other geographical locations, both, or neither. But in recent years, it appears the Red Sox have grabbed more that their allotted share of New York baseball fans.

This past weekend, the Mets hosted the Red Sox in a two-game exhibition series to open their new ballpark. The Met fans showed up mainly to check out their new digs, but also to root on their team.

Interestingly enough, just as many Red Sox fans were in attendance to do the same.

That never bothers me or any other Met fan. Everyone is welcome in our house, even Yankee fans.

But now we have that third team creeping into our 'hood, and it's getting crowded.

My father, who has been watching New York baseball since Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, and Carl Hubbell were in their primes, was as shocked as I was at the unusual number of visiting team faithful.

In reality, I guess we shouldn't be. The Red Sox are the team of choice in no less than six (yes, six) states: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Plus, they dominate a big chunk of upstate New York; that all adds up to a huge demographic.

And Red Sox fans are a group that loves to travel to see their team play. No matter where the game is, you'll find both transplanted and vacationing Bostonians in the audience.

Over time, many New Englanders have moved west and south, but they never lose those BoSox stripes. They usually remain loyal regardless of where they end up.

Now, combine that with all of the individuals from around the country who went to college in the Boston area (a staggering number) that return home with Red Sox fever, and you have perhaps the biggest fanbase in all of baseball.

In years past, this "nation" was one without teeth, as the organization had not won a championship in in eight-and-a-half decades. Of course, that changed in 2004, when they finally exorcised the ghost of Babe Ruth by beating the Yankees en route to a World Championship. They won again in 2007 to end any "fluke" talk.

Now there is no stopping the Red Sox Nation. They are growing and have bite now.

They no longer ride into your town under the guise of humility. They are loud and refuse to be silenced.

It used to be the Yankees that fans loved to hate. Now, fans and media types are directing those negative sentiments towards the Red Sox.

I found most Red Sox fans yesterday to be good people. Sure, they were heard, but they were there to enjoy the game, not act like the British soccer "hooligans" some people make them out to be.

I understand the Nation a little better now. I had to talk to dozens of them to get a feel, plus do a little research.

I know now that all it is is a group of people rooting for a baseball team, and there's nothing more American than that.