Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Red Sox Fan's Worst Nightmare

It is a sad reality that winning sports franchises attract bandwagon fans. Perhaps nowhere has this despicable phenomenon been realized more this decade than with the over-indulgent lust for the now-media-darling Boston Red Sox.

Whenever I hear people complain about the ridiculous amount of Sox love in the media, at the theaters, or in the All-Star voting (come to think of it... actually, Jordan, I think its just you...), I don't have much sympathy. Because, you see, we Red Sox fans climbed an extreme incline to get to where we are today. We paid a steep price. You see, for those of us who didn't just hop on the bandwagon within the last four years -- before the momentous comeback for the ages against the Yankees & the fulfilling sweep against the Cardinals in the Series -- people forget what we were.

We were Red Sox fans.

It was ugly, even though it had its redeeming charm. It was shameful, even though there was some perverted element of honor. It was utterly heartbreaking to be teased, tormented, and trampled upon in the horrific fashion that seemingly only the Red Sox could script. I'm not sure I can offer enough hyperbole to make this point ring true. It was brutal. It was masochistic. It was like passionately rooting to take a sucker punch to the gut.

And that is why my worst nightmare for this coming October would be to see the Red Sox make it to the World Series to face the Chicago Cubs.

Here's the deal. Our franchises had at one point been linked as both being star-crossed. But the meta-narrative wasn't really the same. The Red Sox would come tantalizingly close to glory, only they would quite magnificently snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Cubs, on the other hand, just lost all the time & never gave their fans any hope at all.

So is it better to have loved & lost than to have never loved at all???

Not according to an old college chum of mine named Eric, who (being a life-long Cubs fan) stated definitively that the Cubs' 2003 NLCS Bartman-induced epic collapse was much worse & much more heart-breaking than having never really come close to glory before.

And it got even worse for Cubs fans after that '03 debacle. They watched the Red Sox leave their class of "lovable losers" after the '04 World Series victory -- their first in 86 years. Not only that, but they watched their crosstown rival Chicago White Sox exorcise their own demons by winning the 2005 World Series -- their first in 88 years. And that wasn't the end of it. In 2006, they watched their hated division-rival St. Louis Cardinals come out of nowhere to win their franchise's 10th World Championship. Sadly the bleeding didn't even stop there, because in 2007 the former fraternal Boston Red Sox took a step toward dynasty-hood by winning their 2nd World Series in 4 years.

Honestly, the worst kind of torture is watching everyone else around you be blessed when you're not. Right? Always the bridesmaid; never the bride... that kind of deal. David writes about it in Psalms 22:2-6 -- "Come on, God... You're enthroned as 'The Praise of Israel' ... I've heard about these other Godly people who obeyed you and were blessed! Why not me? Why do I have to run for my life from Saul when I'm trying to do the right thing here?!" That's the gist of David's complaint anyway. And its one of the saddest that there is.

So that is why when I read some so-called "Sox fan" (no doubt a bandwagon-jumping dullard) write on a message board that their dream World Series this year was Sox/Cubs, I almost came unglued. I was so offended that I felt the need to write this diatribe about it. ("Stuff White People Like" entry STILL funny!) Either that person is a sadist, or (more likely) he doesn't understand the grief a Red Sox-induced World Series loss for the Cubs would feel like for long suffering Chicago fans.

Obviously, it would not be pleasant for Red Sox fans if Boston lost a World Series. There is little redeeming value in losing that way. But it would be almost equally joyless to defeat the Cubs to win it all. Because true Red Sox fans know that such a victory would make the transformation complete. We would then BE the New York Yankees: a franchise & fanbase that delighted in trampling less worthy franchises underfoot for the sake of some kind of baseball manifest destiny.

The hype is already there. It is 2008 -- precisely 100 years since the last Cubs World Championship. The Cubs are in first place in their division, and they just traded for an ace pitcher who could take them to the promised land. Poor Cubs fans are already getting set up for the heartbreak to end all heartbreaks.

Please God don't let this happen. Don't let the Cubs & the Red Sox both make the World Series this year. I can't take the pain...


Jordan said...

I am a chief complainer. But I will at least at this: The Cubs are the ultimate WGN bandwagon fanbase going. If your dreaded matchup comes to fruition, your team will definitely be the less annoying.

Speaking of bandwagon... everyone here is officially leaving the Mavs and coming down to see the Rangers. I probably deserve some grief after railing your team...

Mad Rappin EW said...

Thank you for including me in your blog... though I would have to disagree with the outlook. It is true it was more painful going through the Bartman incident than it would be to continue the less than .500 ways of the 90s but as a Cubs fan there is always hope that we can win it this year. We don't give up hope once we get to the World Series, we don't give up in the middle of the season, we really don't even give up when we have been mathematically been eliminated - we just say that we will win it all next season. So sure if my Cubs lose I may change my tune then... but until then I'm excited at the opportunity for the Cubs to finally end the curse!

And as to Jordan's bandwagon comment... it may be true that there are many fans that have been created through watching them on WGN... but unlike all other bandwagon teams in all sports - the Cubs have consistently been a losing team, making the incentive to "join the bandwagon" much less. So although I must admit it there may be some that fall under that category it's borderline bandwagon at best.

III said...

Yeah, I gotta agree with Eric on his bandwagon clarification. There are indeed lots of Braves fans because of TBS & Cubs fans because of WGN. But that's just because of exposure.

What is really deplorable about bandwagon fans is that they hop onto a winner for the sake of enjoying the immediate gratification that winning rewards. Like the kids I grew up around in my adolescence in Florida who wore season-round sports memorabilia consisting of the FSU Seminoles, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bulls, & Atlanta Braves. Deplorable! Outrageous, even!

Bandwagon fans are disgusting because they are loyal to one thing: winning. Which is no loyalty at all.

III said...

And, yes, if/when the Rangers start winning even more, THAT bandwagon will be unbearable. The whole state of Texas will hop on that one, what with their "Don't Mess With Texas" slogans & "Everything's bigger & better here" Texas supremacist attitude. All my Facebook friends in the Metroplex will start posting their photo albums from the Ballpark in Arlington, sporting the blue Texas "T" hats for the first time in their lives probably. Josh Hamilton will be bigger than John Wayne...

... ughhhh, I have to stop right there. It makes me nauseated just to think about all the possibilities!

Lloyd said...

in the words of Dwight K Shrute:

"Would I ever leave this company? Look, I'm all about loyalty. In fact, I feel like part of what I'm getting paid for here is my loyalty. But, if there were somewhere else that valued that loyalty more highly, I'm going wherever they value loyalty the most."

that having been said, I will be highly entertained if the Sox and the Cubs make it to the world series this year. Among my friends are devoted followers of each and I enjoy watching them go nuts.