I thought I would head in a different direction for today’s post. As I write this I am listening to the Red Sox annihilate the Toronto Blue Jays, well on their way to their ninth consecutive win, including sweeps of the Jays and the Yankees. It may have been denial on my part, but I have finally started to accept that the Red Sox have become the Yankees, and to my horror, I like it.
When the Red Sox knocked the monkey off the back of Red Sox Nation by winning the World Series in 2004, I think many Boston fans experienced a bit of an identity crisis. As much as we told others that we would sacrifice a limb or a family member to finally win the World Series again, we also secretly liked what the years of losing meant. Not winning a World Series for 86 years made us special as fans. When we encountered fans of other teams we were looked at in the way somebody might be if they disclosed they had a tail; with a little bit of surprise and a lot of sympathy. For some reason it felt good that people knew that we were faithful enough to be aligned with a cursed cause, as if it said something about our own character.
My identity crisis really started after the Red Sox won the World Series again in 2007. People would tell me, “You know, the Red Sox have become just like the Yankees.” At first I attributed their hatefulness to jealousy or gamesmanship, and comforted myself by rationalizing that the Sox were mostly a homegrown team and only spent their money to keep their own players. After all, wasn’t the backbone of this most recent championship team made up of Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, and Jonathan Papelbon, all guys who came from our superior drafting strategy? In the years since then my line of reasoning has gotten weaker and weaker.
It has been three seasons since the Red Sox last won the World Series, and much like a predatory animal and their taste for blood, us Red Sox fans have developed a taste for winning. At first I wanted to do it the “right way” and not be like the Yankees and spend the equivalent of the GDP of the Bahamas on middle relief pitching. But the game has changed, and I admit it; I want to win, no matter what. Fortunately the Red Sox have the same line of thinking and have consistently spent money to put the best team possible on the field. This has come through spending on the draft and in free agency. Because of this I have come to realize that we have become just like the New York Yankees, and you know what? It’s not as bad as you think.
Over the past couple of off-seasons the Red Sox have spent 82.5 million dollars on John Lackey, 142 million on Carl Crawford, and 154 million on Adrian Gonzalez. The start of the 2011 season was tough, as the team stumbled to a 2-10 record out of the gate, but the way they have played since then, setting themselves up for a strong run for the post season has made me a believer again. Showing my “Yankee belligerence,” I liked the signings as much for what they brought the Red Sox as what it meant keeping them away from other teams.
It used to be that when the Red Sox played the Yankees, I would be cocky, telling people that of course Boston was going to win. But deep down, I can now admit I was fearful. Fearful that the Red Sox were going to lose like everyone thought they were pre-destined to do. Things are different this year. With its stable of home grown players and our Seven Samurai-esque hired muscle, the Red Sox have looked every inch the heavyweight this year, even consistently dismantling the dreaded Yankees, sweeping two 3-game series and winning two out of three in another. I have come to like that taste of blood form winning convincingly, knowing that Yankee fans now look at me the same way I looked at them. Sure, they put on a brave face and crow about the Yankees, but now I know that deep down a little seed of doubt has been planted.
I like not being afraid. I like having fans of other teams look at me with a little sneer that masks the quick feeling of dread spread across their stomach when they think of how their team matches up against mine. I take the taunts thrown my way about the Red Sox buying their next championship and I let them tumble to the ground. Most of all I like winning and the Red Sox have formed a team that is doing just that, and is likeable in the process. I never liked the Yankees and their fans before, but now I think I understand them a little bit better. I hope that the Red Sox keep it up because I don’t want to go back to the way things were and I definitely don’t want to be afraid again.