“Boston loves a winner. And will not tolerate a loser. Bostonians play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed ... because the very thought of losing is hateful to Massholes.”
--Patton (edited somewhat by me)
It’s been an incontrovertible Decade of Dominance in the indisputable City of Champions. Boston has produced 10 years of sports supremacy the likes of which any other city can only dream of: Seven trophies in four different sports in a mere ten years. The Boston fan lies on that stack of silver and gold hardware like a dragon atop his pile of stolen treasure and looks down upon a world that views him with pure, unbridled envy, jealousy, resentment and — I’m sure — hatred.
I can imagine what the rest of the country is thinking while they try in vain to wrap their brains around the unparalleled success Boston has been witness to these last 10 years. I have no doubt that through their green-eyed lust to be like us, they’re calling us “lucky.” Saying we don’t deserve such an embarrassment of riches. Or trying to explain away all the championships as just a coincidence. That we’re the fortunate recipients of a series of accidents of the universe playing out in the Law of Averages; one championship having nothing to do with the other.
Well, I can tell you all as a close observer of the Boston sports scene my whole life that there’s a simpler explanation why my city has produced all these winners these last ten years.
We deserve them.
We, meaning us, the sports fans of Boston, earned these trophies. Every last godamned one of them. Of course, we didn’t go out of the field and win them. That goes without saying. But you can be damned sure it was through our loyalty, dedication, effort, support, high standards of excellence and the unhealthy, irrational, disproportionate emphasis on the central importance these four teams place in our lives that these championships came to be.
We’ve won, in large part, because no other city in North America cares as much about winning as we do. No city demands as much from its professional sports franchises than Boston. No other fans pay the price, endure the hardships or put up with the BS we do. And as a result, we deserve the championships we get.
That might sound cocky and arrogant (Hello ... Masshole!), but in the words of Wilson Pickett, no brags, just facts. I can back up my insufferably smug words with data from an independent source: ESPN.
ESPN: The Magazine just released their annual “Best Franchise in Sports” survey. It ranks all 122 teams from the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB (I’m sure whether to include the WNBA was a hotly debated topic over at the Worldwide Leader) in order of “according to how much they give back to fans for the time, money and emotion they invest in them.”
Basically the list ranks the fan experience in categories such as wins, affordability, stadium experience, ownership, coaching, players and titles. And here is where our teams ranked:
Red Sox: 79th
Bear in mind, part of the criteria was success and management, where the Pats, C’s and Sox understandably ranked high. (Sorry, B’s. This thing wasn’t conducted last week.) And even with that, the Boston teams are ranked among the middle-to-bottom in terms positive fan experiences.
Why? Because being fan in this town means putting up with more crap than in any other. It means more hassle to get to a game. It means gridlock on Route 1 that makes getting to-and-from every Patriots game like Tom Cruise trying to get his kids out of New York in “War of the Worlds.” It means getting asphyxiated from the crush of bodies on the Orange Line going to the Garden or going deaf from the screech of the wheels on the Green Line going to Fenway.
And always it means getting your pocket picked by everyone involved. From the ticket window (on the rare times you can find tickets there) to the scalpers to the parking lots to the concession stands. Going to a game is like being the Spongebob to everyone else’s greedy, penny-pinching Mr. Krabs. The ESPN survey ranks the Boston teams in terms of affordability thus:
And we pay the price. Literally. Gladly. Because like I said, this all has a disproportionate importance in our lives that other fans can’t understand. This matters more to us more than it does to them.
During times of great tragedy and big, important events, people like to say that sports aren’t important. They talk about putting things in “perspective.” Screw that. Perspective sucks. In Massachusetts, our lives suck. Our cost of living is insane. Our weather is horrible. Our leaders are either buffoons or convicted felons or both. Do you honestly think that once the Miami Heat gagged up the NBA Finals that all those certified Beautiful People in the stands thought about it for more than an hour? They went to bed, woke up to a tropical sunrise and went to South Beach surrounded by ridiculously hot women. We stew and agonize over losses and are overjoyed by wins because this is all we’ve got. So forgive us if, when it comes to sports, we don’t have “perspective.” Or don’t forgive us. We stopped caring what anyone else thinks seven titles ago.
It seems like forever ago, but there was a time when no athlete wanted to come to Boston and play in an environment this intense. It’s laughable now to look back. Now that we’ve seen a generation of guys who thrive on it: Brady, Ortiz, Pierce, Thomas, Vinatieri, Schilling, Garnett, Horton, Welker, Pedroia, Allen and dozens of others. Guys who like being in the crucible because the hottest fires make steel or pressure makes diamond or some other cliché I would’ve learned if I’d paid attention in Physical Science class. And the ones who refused to come here (like David Justice, with his infamous “No Boston” contract clause) or who couldn’t cut it here, like Edgar Renteria who went to Atlanta and said he was much happier playing for the Braves ... when they were in last place ... are exposed as frail little hot house flowers. And good riddance to them.
So we demand as much from our management people. Part of the reason Jeremy Jacobs is getting his name put on Lord Stanley’s Cup is Bruins fans demanded improvement in the way he was running the team. For 30 years, the Jacobses kept Harry Sinden in charge. And for 30 years we were reminded what a great, legendary GM he was, while the money kept rolling in and the Cups didn’t. Finally, Jacobs’ hand was forced by the fed up fans that started letting their feet do the talking. Faced with a 1/3 empty barn every night, Jacobs finally brought in winners to run the show. And even those guys were a first-round, seventh-game OT winner away from the peasants demanding their heads roll as well. Thirty-nine years of failure will do that to you.
To further illustrate the point, consider the case of Bill Belichick, who’s the polar opposite of Sinden. For 12 years we’ve been reminded over and over by a bitter, vindictive media that The Hooded One is an unlikable, despicable, paranoid cheater. But all he’s done here is win. So there’s not a Pats fan worth his Troy Brown jersey who wouldn’t jump in front of a Fung Wah for the man. I find it ironic that everyone feels so bad for Cleveland for having such lousy teams when they ran Belichick out of town with pitchforks and torches. Not for the crime of losing, because he had the Browns on the rise, but for the unpardonable sin of benching the immortal Bernie Kosar. (Note to Cleveland: Doug Flutie was our local hero too. But if His Hoodedness wanted to grind Li’l Doug into Soylent Green and fed him to the o-line, we would’ve assumed it was in the best interest of the ball club and not given it a second thought.)
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life (an unlikely prospect at best) it’s this: The most successful people in any field of endeavor are the ones who give it way too much importance in their lives. Promotions go to the people who stay at work two hours after you’ve gone home. The guys who run your union are zealots who never miss a meeting. The decisions in every small town are made by the get-a-lifers with nothing better to do than spend 10 hours a week voting on zoning restriction proposals. And the pro sports championships are won by the city full of people who are obsessed with winning. And that, Mr. & Mrs. Rest-of-the-World, would be us.
I was at the Bruins’ Stanley Cup parade, talking to Bs fans as part of a (Shameless plug alert!) Fanthropology video for WEEI.com. And the outpouring of emotion was unmistakable. You got the sense that this was more than just a day they won’t forget. That seeing the Cup won and brought home was one of those moments they’ll measure they’re lives by forever. “I graduated. Got married. Had a baby. Saw the Bruins win the Stanley Cup...” I don’t know much, but I know fans in this town. And I sincerely think this is that important to them. And it’s that attitude, that irrational, disproportionate lack of “perspective” and obsessive love of the four local teams is what drives them to win.
Congratulations again, Boston. You earned this.
Follow Jerry on Twitter @JerryThornton1