I’ve had enough! The 2011 Red Sox have simply killed me. The stories that have emerged about this team are repulsive. Beer in the locker room. Beer in the dugout! Players were greasing up video game controllers with fried chicken while Kyle Weiland was getting regular starts.
It’s embarrassing. I’m embarrassed for them, frankly. It’s tough to witness a public meltdown. It’s hard to listen to the tried-and-true defense mechanisms of denial and blame. But baseball players are expected to live it up a little, right? They keep reminding us of “The Idiots” with their Jack Daniels shots? After all, gluttony and sloth are two qualities not unfamiliar with the Major Leagues of baseball. Boozin’ Babe Ruth is the most recognized name in the history of the game. A clubhouse full of beer and chicken is not the end of the world.
I would imagine that these acts of gluttony and sloth are two unattractive, but relatively permissible, deadly sins in the professional locker room. Gluttony and sloth I can tolerate. It was the shameful displays of pride that truly killed my allegiance to the Boston Red Sox. The willingness to throw anyone under the bus: the media, the management, the players, anyone – anyone else but the individual questioned at the time – has been despicable. Anonymous reports of possible prescription drug abuse on the part of the departing manager; John Henry publicly stating that he never wanted his second-highest paid player; Larry Lucchino’s (probable) angry and vindictive leaks from sensitive personal and negotiation processes; Tom Werner saying that the ownership group (of which he is an active member) is overextended. Pathetic.
Don’t you worry, though. This will blow over. This will all be forgotten in the excitement of February in Fort Myers. Gorging on daylong NESN coverage and analysis will numb us like a Thanksgiving dinner. And when April rolls around, Jon Lester will come back and pitch his ass off. Beckett might even do that, too. A new manager will put a shine to all of this and Red Sox Nation will pack the seats at Fenway for another year of singing “Sweet Caroline” and texting friends while the bases are loaded. The problem is I’m a baseball fan – not a Neil Diamond fan.
Looking to next year, it seems I’ll get the privilege of submitting myself to the incessant marketing of a dysfunctional, abusive boys’ club of the filthy rich for yet another summer. Up til now, I’ve been resigned to the fact that I’ve got Red Sox DNA. We all do, right? There’s no way out. We were destined for this relationship come hell or high water. Remember Babe, Bucky, Buckner, and Boone?! We live for this insanity!
Or… not. There are, after all, 29 other Major League baseball teams. There are 29 other baseball-crazy cities, towns, and regions living and dying on every pitch throughout the Major League season. And one of those cities is Pittsburgh! You know, the Pirates? If you need a hint: it’s the team that Jason Bay and Tim Wakefield played for before we called them up to the big team.
I did a little research on the National League team from Pittsburgh and found out that they don’t actually draft and develop players simply to trade them to Boston and New York. While it may seem like they are one of the de facto Red Sox farm teams, with San Diego and the old Expos, turns out they’re not. Apparently they have a really nice stadium, passionate fans and a rich history to boot. They haven’t had a winning season in a really (really!) long time. But winning never stopped Sox fans from rooting for the Patriots back in the day. And look at them now!
So why the Pirates? The Pirates will always be connected to the Red Sox through the first World Series. There are well documented accounts of the rowdy and obnoxious fans from Boston in those years. This band of singing drunks allegedly made a spectacle of themselves in Boston and on the road. There’s no doubt that they made a lot of noise. But in grand (pre-) Red Sox style, these notorious rooters assumed the title of royalty and initiated a rumor that, through their profane exuberance, they had actually helped Boston defeat the Pirates in the Series.
But really, for me, my interest in the Pirates started in 1984. I was 10 and just beginning to understand the obsession of baseball. John Tudor, my favorite lefty at the time, was traded to the Pirates for Mike Easler. Coincidentally, my family was considering a move to Pittsburgh and I thought I could use Tudor as my bridge to the local team. So I bought one of those black, flat-top, mesh Pirates hats and prepared for the upcoming change.
Well, we didn’t move. But I still wore that hat. I wore it every day. I even wore it to my high school graduation. I wore it until it literally fell apart. For whatever reason, the striped pillbox cap became part of who I was growing up. I was a Sox fan through and through. But I loved that hat.
There are certainly more reasons that bring me to Pittsburgh. One reason that contrasts the Pirates with the Red Sox well is that the Pirates can actually be considered an underdog. They’re a small market baseball team in football country. Boston can field a 1st baseman and a left fielder on the money that pays the entire Pittsburgh roster. It’s strange, but the Red Sox claim the underdog status simply because they insist on keeping their payroll (barely) below the Yankees. Make no mistake, the Red Sox are no underdog. The Red Sox have a huge financial advantage over everyone else in baseball. With the Wild Card format, that means the Red Sox should make the playoffs every year. The discrepancy between the Red Sox and Yankees budgets is emphasized in Boston. But to everyone else in this country it’s insignificant. The Red Sox know that. Their self-imposed underdog status is disingenuous at best. Really, it’s just another marketing strategy to maintain the legendary chip on the shoulder of Sox fans everywhere. Keep ‘em angry! It’s getting old…
Back in 1903 the Pittsburgh Pirates suffered the behaviors of Red Sox fans. In 2011, the Pirates will gain a fan that has suffered the behaviors of the Red Sox organization long enough. I declare independence from the oppressive marketing machine that has become the Boston Red Sox. They’re unlikable and arrogant. They force feed us an entertainment package that doesn’t have a lot to do with baseball anymore. They beat up on the weaker teams and claim to be unfairly bullied by the Yankees. The Red Sox are disgusting. They are what they tell us we should hate.
Admittedly, I have a lot of work to do. I’m only beginning to familiarize myself with the likes of Andrew McCutchen and Jameson Taillon. I’ve never been to PNC Park and my old hat is long gone. But I’ve got an eBay bid on a new one and I’m starting to make some connections with the team. I’m actually getting excited for the 2012 season. Go Pirates!