Here’s the thing. I grew up in Western Massachusetts bleeding Red Sox. I remember where I was during the Bucky Dent playoff game. I went to some random clothing store buying jeans because I was so insanely nervous that I had to get out of the house and do something other than bite my nails. I know it’s strange for a teenager to go clothes shopping when his heart and soul is on the line. But Red Sox love is that way. Same with Fisk’s home run, the ball between Bill Buckner’s legs, the Tim Wakefield pitch that cost the first Yankee series and the come from behind miracle which eventually resulted in the first championship. I can name whole rosters of odd-ball players who have populated our team with character and fun with whom I fell deeply and passionately in love. My first game at Fenway? Bill Lee agains Jim Palmer. The spaceman won in a 2-1 contest. My son Seamus learned to read, I am convinced, by studying box scores every morning over his cheerios.
I’ve sat in the owners box, I’ve had the trophies at my house because of some random YMCA raffle that my wife and I won, I’ve sat next to Stephen King during a World Series game trying to figure out what to say to him, I’ve hung around David Ortiz in street clothes enough to know the guy isn’t fat he is just huge.
But something horrible, sad, and tragic happened over the last year. All the guys I used to love–the insane characters like Manny losing his mind under the Green Monster–have left. The game itself has been spoiled by the Money Ball attempt to wear out pitchers with the unintended consequence of slowing the game down for fans to make it basically unwatchable (I took my son and his friends to a Yankees game and left with the score tied in the 7th inning because we had been sitting there for 4 hours and just didn’t care anymore). And then there was last year’s infamous collapse during which I was actively rooting for my own team to lose because I had come to the conclusion that they deserved it.
I probably could have lived with all that but two further factors have caused me to have absolutely no interest in a team I used to live and die by.
My wife and I were in a waterfront restaurant last fall late in the regular season on a night which happened to be a Sox night off. At a table not far from us the supposedly heart and soul of the pitching staff piled in with their girlfriends and wives–Lester, Bard, and the rest of the young studs. My first reaction was to be simply shocked by how young they all looked. Seriously, they could have been in high school. Most of them didn’t look like they should be drinking. But drink they did. And laugh and carry on. It was my own private look inside the fried chicken and Heidi Watney driven club house. I honestly felt sorry for a guy like Lester who had battled back from cancer for what? For this?
Then there was the relatively amazing appearance of John Henry on my friend Mike Felger’s radio program. Now, I have been around Henry enough to be utterly confused and at times repulsed by the guy. His handshake is like one of those Halloween tricks where you stick your hand in a bowl of apple sauce. Watching a game with him is just about the most boring thing imaginable. The guy can’t speak. And when he does it’s in a whisper. He may be a genius at commodity futures but when it comes to human beings, not so much. I read one time that he was in a punk band in which he shaved off his left eyebrow. Every time I see him I try to focus on that–the David Byrne personality perhaps–rather than the fact he looks like a corpse.
Anyhow, Henry’s performance on Felger’s show was great theater in the sense that not many owners are being driven around town and decide to go confront their most ardent critics at the sports radio station that doesn’t even carry the team’s games, making instant news for the competition. I give him points for that, I suppose. But everything that came out of his mouth made me want to vomit. It was the nail in the coffin in terms of my ability to relate to this team, to love this franchise, to care about the future of a group of guys playing a game that I used to live and die by.
And then there is this little Larry Lucchino kick-in-the-ass. Terry Francona was one of us. He lived around the corner from me. I used to see him buying milk on a regular basis. He was our manager for eight years and won two world series championships. After last season’s collapse he was told to leave for no good reason other than the need to deflect attention from ownership. But not just that, his character was dragged through the mud with stories about drug abuse and marital problems (hmmmm, I seem to remember a front page Boston Magazine piece celebrating JH’s true love for his much younger 3rd wife, as hard as that is to believe).
Larry then called Terry to ask him to come back for the 100th anniversary celebration of Fenway. Terry told him to pound sand.
It’s sad to say but I am right there with you Terry. I live walking distance to the old park. I have a photograph of when it was first constructed on my office wall. But I will be taking a pass.