A difficult time for Red Sox fans with another poor season
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 01:09
Excepting the most incredible September in baseball history, the Boston Red Sox are out of the playoffs. Again.
For the third season in a row, the Red Sox have failed to make it to October following seasons that were filled with glimmers of hope, but ultimately ended in bitter defeat. In a word, it has been a depressing three years.
I have only lived through 21 years of Red Sox history, but it feels like I have been through it all. I can vividly recall going to games up until the age of 14 and hearing New York Yankees fans chant the ever-painful “1918.” I was not alive in 1978, but I have been told the stories enough times to feel like I was sitting in Fenway Park on that disappointing October day when Yankees shortstop Bucky Dent’s homerun earned him a special moniker in Boston. I was born four years after Bill Buckner let that ground ball roll through his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, but I think I saw that video replayed more times than people have seen the “I Like Turtles” kid on YouTube.
In 2003, I finally lived my own painful moment of Red Sox history. Staying up late for game seven of the ALCS, I thought the Red Sox had their chance to break that awful curse. Instead, Aaron Boone cemented himself in baseball lore and shattered the dreams of Red Sox nation with a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the 11th. I had never, as a sports fan, felt as defeated. It was one of the most painful things I have ever watched, and I have watched a live hip replacement surgery on an operating room floor.
Luckily, the pain was short-lived. A season later, in the most dramatic fashion possible, the Red Sox finally reached the holy land. After what looked like an inevitable sweep at the hands of the rival Yankees, the Red Sox went on to win the next four games and proceed to the World Series, where they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four games. The 86-year-old curse of the Bambino had been broken. In 2007, just three years after that, the Red Sox won it all again.
Now, five years after their last World Series victory, the Red Sox have failed to make it to the playoffs in three of the past five seasons. The last three years have all ended abysmally. In 2010, the Chicago White Sox mathematically eliminated them from the playoffs late in September. In 2011, after looking like the best team during the summer, the Red Sox had the biggest September collapse in baseball history, dropping 11 of their last 14 games and blowing a nine-game lead for control of the AL East. 2011 ended like a bad breakup with the firing of Terry Francona, the manager for both the 2004 and 2007 championship teams. This year, the circus that was Bobby Valentine’s clubhouse may have done more damage to the team than last year’s falling-out. It felt more like watching an episode of the “Real World” than baseball, given all the drama and rumors that have divided the team. Camaraderie was the staple of the 2004 team, but not one ounce of it could be found this year. Players did not even want to sit near Valentine on the bench.
Where is the Red Sox team I used to know and love? What happened to being the “dirt dogs” or the self-proclaimed “idiots”? What happened to the good old-fashioned fun, like when Pedro Martinez was taped to a pole in the dugout? It makes me miss being part of the lovable losers. I used to watch nearly every game on TV. This year, I barely watched them, and when I did, it was between the cracks of my fingers as I covered my face in disgust.
What is most interesting about the Red Sox situation is how winning can change the feel of a franchise. One moment the Red Sox were the lovable losers and the butt of every sports joke, but with one of the strongest fan bases in sports. After winning two championships in a decade, however, losing is no longer an option, and seasons that do not end with a championship become a failure. There is no looking back, now that winning has become a part of the culture again. It is time for a fresh start, it is time for a little faith and, most importantly, it is time for the Red Sox to reclaim the togetherness that made fans fall in love with this franchise.