The 2009 Boston Red Sox: The Passion Has Returned

New England Sports Correspondent IApril 13, 2009

BOSTON - APRIL 9: Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after striking out against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park, April 9, 2009, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

About a year ago, I had written an article prior to the start of the 2008 Red Sox season dealing with my feelings towards my passion for the Red Sox and how it appeared to be dwindling.

My fan-hood wasn’t twiddling; however, it something seemed to be missing. I hadn’t anticipated the Sox like I had in the past and the start of the new season simply did not excite me.

Perhaps it was the Patriots' recent failure, or the Celtics recent success, or maybe even it was the fact that the Sox winning ways had grown so predictable that I was losing interest.

Maybe things had become too easy for the Boston Red Sox and therefore it became a hassle to watch the games.

That feeling is gone my friends. In fact, it’s almost flipped.

At the beginning of the Red Sox 2008 season, my head was in the clouds. I couldn’t care less about the Red Sox early on. For once, all my attention was focused on the Celtics, and some of my thoughts were still trapped by 18-1.

For the first time in my life, the Boston Red Sox had become a second thought. However, with the arrival of the 2009 season, I find this is no longer the case. For the most part, the Celtics just have not seemed to keep me entertained this year.

Whether it be the nagging injury problems, or the inconsistent bench that made watching the games frustrating, it simply wasn’t holding my interest. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’ve watched more than two Celtics games all the way through this season; much like the 2008 Red Sox.

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I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t often sit down and watch a full nine innings of play.

But this year feels different, and unlike last year, I know exactly why I’m more excited about this years Red Sox team.

1.) The Yankees are back. Last year just seemed empty with them. The Yankees had not made any large moves in the offseason and even when they were hanging with the Sox and Rays throughout the season, they still did not feel like a threat.

I have to admit that it felt odd not hating the guts of every single one of them throughout the season; in fact, the Yankees seemed so out of it last year that I found myself defending them more and even finding my hate for them less than that of the Rays.

Talk about an alternate universe.

I even found myself saying things like: “I really like Mariano Rivera. He seems like a good guy and he’s as classy as they come.” And “I know a lot of people hate on Alex Rodriguez, but the man is just so god damn great!” All of this just felt so wrong and I hated myself for it.

I hated the possibility that there were a group of twenty-five players that I disliked more than those on the Yankees. And when the playoffs rolled around...it just didn’t seem right to have the Yanks watching from home.

Of course, as a Sox fan, I loved seeing the Yankees out of the playoffs, but I had become so accustomed to seeing the Yanks play in October that it seemed unjustified.

This season is different. The Yankees damn near signed up every big name on the market and are destined to make a fierce charge for the division title. The Yankees are back...and it almost feels good.

2.) The Rays emergence. Before the start of the 2008 season, it seemed like the same old stories. Red Sox and Yankees fighting for the division crown while the Blue Jays continue to look up in envy and the Orioles and Rays play the role of the lovable losers.

Well, it was anything but that. For months I wondered when the Rays would fade, claiming that this team was not for real and that they were a team of inexperienced young players who would eventually crumble, while the veteran and experienced Red Sox dashed towards another division title.

As I began to realize that this wasn’t going to happen, a fiery rage filled up my stomach. That rage and hatred became official when Coco charged the mound and pulled a move out of “The Matrix,” only to be gang tackled by several players who were about four hundred pounds heavier than himself.

It reminded me of the Sox/Rays brawls from earlier this decade and reminded me of how much I truly hated the Rays. Not even I can deny that that brawl was the defining moment of the Rays season—the moment when they truly became “real.”

This season, I know the Rays are for real, and I want revenge.

And I still hate them. So much. Pena. Navarro. Iwamura. Longoria. Garza. ALL of them. The competition in the AL East has pulled me back into things.

3.) The loss in the ALCS and knowing that you have something to play for. I’m not a spoiled Red Sox fan; in fact, I’m not sure quite how to describe my fan-hood. Many fans become too greedy and expect to be the greatest every year; they expect to walk into the World Series and come out victorious.

Other fans love the idea of having their team defend a World Series title. Personally, I’ve never had either feeling. Knowing that the Red Sox had won the 2007 World Series, I enter the 2008 season with a sense of relaxation. To be honest, I was satisfied with having won the year previous and I wasn’t too anxious to win another one.

I guess the best adjective to describe my feeling was patient. It was almost like I wouldn’t mind if the Sox didn’t win the World Series, but at the same time, I had that “greedy fan” feeling, like I expected the Sox to waltz right into the playoffs and win the World Series.

The ending to the 2008 season changed my perspective. Seeing Iwamura step on second and celebrate made my heart sink and left a very poor taste in my mouth. It made my eagerness for 2009 that much more powerful. As foolish as it sounds, it made me feel like the Red Sox actually had something to play for.

4.) I love not having to be the “Negative Nancy.” For years I’ve thought of myself as a negative person when it comes to sports. I’ve been known to panic and overreact when things aren’t going the Red Sox way; however, that’s probably because I’ve always expected them to be the best team in the MLB. (That’s what being a 19-year-old Sox fan will do to you.)

The 2009 season has a lot more competition in the East as the Yankees are back, the Rays are for real, and even the Jays look strong early on. Yet, the Sox offense has started out slow and it’s caught some flak for it. For the first time in my life, I’ve found myself playing the role of a positive thinking fan.

I’ve spent too many seasons panicking over certain player's play early on; it’s gotten to the point where I know that, in the end, the Sox will turn out alright. It’s not a fact, it’s just how the team has been built. The Red Sox often start off seasons slow and turn things around as the season progresses.

Many of the Sox players have been known to start off the season slow. I find these early struggles are only making the games more interesting and more entertaining.

I enjoy tuning into a game daily and not quite knowing what Sox team I’ll end up seeing and I enjoy being one of the fans who’s not concerned with the slow start. As previously stated, it makes the games worth watching.

And so the passion has returned. The competition has returned. The drive and fire has returned. The rivals have returned. Most importantly, my love for the game and for this team has returned. I’m being pulled in by this 2009 Red Sox team.

I haven’t missed an inning yet, and I expect that to continue as this “season full of question marks” continues.

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