Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Boston fan, through and through. I have loved the Red Sox since I was a little tyke. I stayed up late to watch the Celts win the title in 1981 (I was eight). I used to get mocked growing up in Massachusetts for being a die-hard Patriots fan, but I did not care.
There is nowhere I would rather live, and there are no teams I would rather pull for. I love Boston fans. I love the passion, I love the opinions, and I love the rivalries we have with the assorted teams in the three major sports.
However, one thing that always bothered me about my fellow Boston fans is the lack of loyalty toward players who leave here. I do not know why it is, but so many Boston fans cannot let go, and then act like jilted lovers. As Tom Cruise said in Cocktail, “Everything ends badly; otherwise, it would never end.”
Drew Bledsoe takes a 1-15 team to the Super Bowl in four years, yet he is seen by many as Ryan Leaf, Part Two around here.
Nomar Garciaparra gets traded in 2004 and people forget that this guy was The Franchise for the better part of eight years. He was an amazing five-tool player for a franchise that had seen so few. A friend of mine who moved to California in 2002 and came back in 2005 summed it up best when he said “When I left, everyone wore a Nomar jersey; I come back and he is the Devil.”
Last night, there were people wearing “Manny Who?” shirts all around Fenway.
Manny Who?! Manny Ramirez, the best right-handed hitter who has ever played for the Red Sox!
I am sure the people wearing these shirts were just trying to be funny, but it still gets under my skin. I know things went poorly in 2008 with Manny and the Red Sox. People would be foolish to turn a blind eye to some of the stunts Manny pulled this season.
But Red Sox fans, for the most part, always embraced Manny’s goofy ways. But now he is gone, and people paint him as the villain. Do Red Sox fans remember life prior to 2004? Do people realize that without Manny, we might be talking about a 90-year World Series drought right now?
I wonder if people feel that, in this day and age, they have to take one strong opinion or the other. There can be no middle ground. There is no time to say “Well Manny did upset me with some of his antics, and I get mad when he says he never enjoyed himself here, but he was such a great player. I will always think of him fondly and think about what an amazing hitter he was for the Sox.”
That would never fly on talk radio. You either have to say Manny is a scumbag and I wish he never had the honor of playing for the Red Sox (stupid), or you have to say he is a saint, and the Red Sox are idiots for trading him (equally stupid).
People around here are so obsessed with Manny Ramirez (probably because he is a lightning rod for the media and talk radio), that they all overlook one thing. The Red Sox are better off, record-wise, with him gone (61-48 before the trade, 34-19 after the trade). The Dodgers were happy to get their hands on him for a few months, as he helped push them to a division crown and an NLCS appearance. I am sure they will make an effort to re-sign him in the offseason. Manny is happy. Jason Bay has been great from day one and is happy. Why can’t everyone smile and be content that this was a win-win?
Is it like this everywhere? Do Twins fans sit and talk about David Ortiz all the time? Do Bengals fans wonder why Corey Dillon was such a solid team player here, but could not do it in Cincinnati? Do Sonics fans grab Celtics box scores every morning to see what Ray Allen did the night before?
I think these fans probably are sad to see great players like these move on, but realize it is part of sports and focus on the team they currently have on their roster. No one likes to see bad management spell the end for great players on their teams, but I would wager no one drones on and on about it like a Boston fan.
I will never forget the one day I was in a golf store, and the Red Sox game was on the radio there. The announcer was reading the out of town scoreboard. It was probably 2000 or so. The announcer said that the Expos had won behind the solid pitching of Carl Pavano. A guy near me lamented that the Red Sox let Pavano go, and that the Red Sox never held on to their young pitchers, and that is why they never win.
I felt compelled to interject and remind this nitwit that Carl Pavano was used to acquire some guy named Pedro Martinez, who was at the time the best pitcher on the planet. He still insisted it was a bad move and a sign that then-GM Dan Duquette did not know what he was doing. I had to stop, realizing that I was not going to get anywhere with this person.
Boston fans have so many great qualities, and I truly believe we are among the best professional sports fans in the nation. But the obsession with the former players is ridiculous. Sometimes, you have to let it go and move on. This is professional sports, and sometimes people leave as free agents, and sometimes people get traded. It is just part of the business.
There is nothing wrong with discussing these moves, and wondering who got the best of it, but when it turns into obsession, and it clouds your vision of the great things some of these athletes did when they were here. To me, that is where the problem starts.