The Sox and their changing identity

Around the time when the Sox won the World Series in 2004, we heard a growing series of gripes about "pink hats" and other new (and not-so-serious) fans who had taken up the team since doing so was newly fashionable.

Nothing succeeds like success, so the team's second WS triumph in four years has made tough tickets even more difficult to obtain. And while it was charming to see some traditional Japanese dances as part of the pre-game ceremony before yesterday's season opener in Tokyo, the corporate advertising adorning the uniforms -- EMC for the Sox, Pepsi for the A's -- reinforces how this tour was mostly about the money.

For we fanatics, baseball remains a beautiful thing. Yet as with tickets, the Sox' success poses certain challenges.

Like Art Martone, I recommend Seth Mnookin's take on the perils of Sox success, originally published in the excellent Maple Street Press Red Sox 2008 Annual, entitled, "Overfeeding the Monsters: Entitlement and the Continuing Evolution of Red Sox Nation":

I went to my first Yankees-Red Sox game in the late ’70s, back in the days when Jim Rice viewed a base-on-balls as an affront to his manhood and Fenway Park still had its neuroses-inducing troughs. Over the several decades, I discovered a multitude of reasons to hate the Yankees: they were from New York, they had unceremoniously stomped on the collective heart of Red Sox Nation too many times to count, and their fans were obnoxious, self-entitled, uninformed, drunken louts. In contrast were the Red Sox’s partisans. I took pride in the fact that we were a stoic, loyal, and intelligent bunch. It was an important part of my identity at the time.Those descriptions, like all stereotypes, stuck because they had more than a bit of truth to them. Which is why I worry about our–that is, Red Sox Nation–current collective identity. In the years following the ‘04 World Championship run, I’ve had more than one non-Bostonian complain about Sox fans and how they were assuming the sort of Yankees-esque sense of entitlement I’d grown up despising. I argue with these malcontents, of course, and point to SoSH, and the impressive number of stat heads and literati that follow Ye Olde Town Team.

But emails from those “Red Sox fan for decade,” as well as more than a few of the callers to ‘EEI, and yes, some of us knights of the keyboard have made these defenses more halfhearted as of late. There are times when it seems as if an immensely unappealing, I-deserve-what-I-want-and-I-deserve- it-right-now myopia has replaced the Calvinistic resignation that RSN personified for so many long years. To take but one example: a Worcester Telegram columnist actually put his name to a piece that detailed the “many bad decisions since [the World Series] - letting Pedro Martinez and Johnny Damon escape to New York…Matt Clement, Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez, and the long-term contract for puzzling Josh Beckett, for starters.” (The headline on that gem: “Epstein to blame for Boston’s downsizing.”) As any sentient being can tell you, Josh Beckett, at $10 mil per, has to be one of the biggest bargains in the game. Pedro Martinez, who played in five games last year while collecting his $13 million paycheck, is not.

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