On April 12, 1912 Fenway Park opened its gates. On April 15, 1912. The Titanic sank.
Apparently, this week Terry Francona is not invited to the great celebrations taking place at Fenway 100. Hmmm. Really???
In 2012, a sort of ironic reversal of fortune has taken place. The Costa Concordia sank on January 14, 2012. While we cannot locate any data to support a major event three days later for the Boston Red Sox, truth be told their ship has been slowly sinking ever since Captain Francona was run aground or run out of town as it were by that invisible iceberg off the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Boston “Hahbah,” an iceberg purportedly named Lucchino. A man of great character, sensitivity and deft political instincts on how to navigate the perilous waters of Boston sports, Francona was callously iced off by an “unnamed source,” a leak on his alleged and unsubstantiated *drug problems* as a “thank you, F U and don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out,” even after Francona had graciously sought higher ground to partake in his own departure from Port Fenway. Iceberg Lucchino is allegedly to blame, which in turn has now inalterably damaged the HMS Henry for good. A once proud, seemingly impenetrable luxury liner that aims to be a winner is, in all truth, no different than the Yawkee Group ownership of yore save for two World Series pennants. Fact.
The Boston media – mostly from what I’ve listened to via the incomparable Big Show, et al at WEEI Sports Network and read on The Globe and Herald columns – have been chumming the waters worse than Chief Brody and Quint ever did off the Amity shores. With a piranha-like frenzy, on-air and on-paper personalities excoriate, pillory and focus all their “Francover” grumpiness on new Skipper Bobby Valentine.
But, don’t blame our media. Their instinct to teem our waters for blood is really not their fault. They can’t help it. None of us can. See, we are all bred out of the puritanical madness that came to our shores in 1612. 1612? Whatever. The point is, like the days of Hawthorne, Lizzy Borden and Salem, MA before, witch-hunts are part of Boston culture, and by extension its media. I ought to know as I love to witch hunt almost by my marrow’s instinct – at everything I deem morally, politically and socially incorrect. Maybe the birthplace of blogging is Beantown?
In typical exhaustive Bostonian, the media is like a nosy neighbor more than a reporter. These days they microscopically sift, examine, dissect, debate and flay Bobby V’s every move. CSI Boston. They’re already gunning for him, beginning in earnest the campaign to chase him out of town in a daily grind, a biased manner unbecoming a world-class city but every bit Bostonian. You don’t want to play the game our way by our rules? You are dead to us. Well, Francona more than learned. He beat them at the game. He savvily sped up his Boston sports media learning curve from day one and played the game in a genuine manner. He was neither smarmy nor manipulative. He parried in a way that genuinely respected and protected his players on the one side and respected and created great relationships with the media on the other hand.
In all fairness to the scrutiny of Bobby Valentine, the media is merely our voice, a populist bullhorn howling in the wind at the loss of our great leader and comrade-in-arms, Tito. Tito is a nickname befitting a larger than life person whose image should color banners on every light post down Landsdown St. while legions of adoring fans soldier forth in goose-stepping-time with salutes to our Great Brother Tito, adorned in mirror-shades and full-regalia uniform waving munificently from the grand stands to us, the unwashed rabble, the hungry masses thirsty for more victories. With his departure, we were and are still the Lost Children, suddenly out in a high plains drift of tumbleweed and longing for the Idiotic good ‘ol days.
What the hell just happened we asked at the end of 2011? To this day, many of us may still try to fathom just what the hell happened as we attempt to turn the page to present day. Clearly, we do so with a slight hindsight strain in our face, a tinge of false bravado, hope and cheer even as we were ‘swift boated’ by the 2011 season unraveling so fast and the loss of Francona, if not fresh, still painful. Still. I believe. I mean, I see him on ESPN BBTN and wish he were still in a Red Sox uniform no matter how much I like Bobby V. and root for him. But, see, I don’t root for Bobby V. or for the Red Sox. I find myself actively rooting against them. I am the turncoat. It’s not personal. It’s business. It’s the manner in which the organization has conducted business for some time.
In 2012 we ride in the wake of an absurd Beergate and Lost Season #2, 2011. Lost Season #1, 2010, had been chalked up as a loss for reasons that this writer personally still doesn’t apprehend – oh, yeah. It was all about strength and conditioning, stupid. The prior two seasons have both been sunk the way that old school Red Sox seasons used to go – waning, swooning in the dog days of summer with a quilt of patchwork reasons none of which every sink in to a level of acceptance and letting go. I believe those glaring errors and miscues linger bitterly for all of us, borne out of frustration built on the back of those generations of losing. Maybe it’s just The Bloozah content in glass-half-empty mentality. But, I think when we all see highly paid athletes underachieve, under-perform and under value the weight of the agreed upon contract, we see a fleecing. They took the money. Where’s our return?
I’m personally tired of the reasons and the excuses. We pay high-priced tickets, we have a high-priced payroll and we pay high-end concessions beyond the pizza, pretzels, beer in the stand and chicken in the bowels of that grand ol’ ballpark, Fenway. We lose collectively when our team doesn’t live up to our expectations as we head into a long dark winter wondering about what might have been. Our team should help us distract from our own shortcomings not mirror or highlight them. It’s one thing if they lose valiantly but when they lose in the way this organization has been falling short for a long time, enough is enough.
Red Sox v.2010 was all about athletes who appeared to collectively be unable to remain physically conditioned and, perhaps, mentally tough down the stretch. From a fan’s point of view, it is hard to say. I could, admittedly, never live the life of a professional athlete. Yet, this is partly my point and partly my gripe with MLBPA. The MLB Players Association is truly a powerful union that undermines what working class, average union workers in the United States of America strive for: worker protections. You have a union that has the power to gain huge sums of guaranteed monies for its workers on the public dole – merchandise, tickets, TV and Internet subscriptions. When politicians try to gut public unions and collective bargaining, perhaps they ought first look at their own entitlements of taxpayer-funded pensions and health care. Next, they ought look at ‘private’ unions such as what the MLBPA represents: Gross excess and ultimate untouchable unaccountable power. But, alas I digress. I really digress. Sorry.
Fine. Ok. The Red Sox v.2010 did suffer a string of freak injuries in almost domino-like fashion. Still, with a bench 25 deep they fought valiantly to the bitter and highly worthy end. Didn’t they win something like 90 games to make it to third place? V.2011, touted as and by all accounts a clearly superior team, fared worse. They finished third by trending downward rather than clawing to the top in the manner that v.2010 attempted. Red Sox v.2011 no matter how it is spun and served up to us was entitled, lazy and a team bent on self-destruction. No. Annihilation.
At the end of the 2011 season, in the midst of the beer and chicken washout, you had a now-former General Manager overripe for departure jump ship for the Lakes country of Chicago. The Red Sox, trying to sift through the rubble by focusing on the ‘rebuilding’ a.k.a. v.2012, cleaned house. They let Theo off-the-hook for some of the mess he created. He fled to the Cubs. We received a pathetic excuse of a “deal” in return: a third-tier player who is now injured. Current Red Sox ownership is hands-off and more interested in new ventures like Liverpool s with the smoke and mirrors of trivial stuff like why Bobby V. should appears on a weekly radio show in New York and whether or not he should. Suggestion: focus that energy on holding our team accountable.
In 2012 you have a team that is apparently determined to underachieve for the third year in a row. You have one piece of the unholy triumvirate in Larry Lucchino perhaps undermining his new General Manager, Ben Cherington. You have a hall-of-famer closer allowed to depart and the replacement injured the day before the season opened. (With Werner a film guy are we inking The Curse 2?) You have pitchers with bloated, yes bloated, contracts whose monies are guaranteed even as their faulty strength and conditioning, their lack of mental toughness and their commitment to what they signed up for – being larger than life and playing to the level of the contract they demanded – completely lack-ey-ing.
Who, in all of this…who is the real loser? Who is the BLOOZAH? I am. You are. We, the better-deserving fans are made fools of as more gritty, determined and respectable organizations evolve. The Red Sox are a ship that is sinking fast, going Back to the Future looking for ways to self-destruct as only The Yawkees knew how to a few generations ago.
Yankee. Yawkee. The difference of one consonant is the margin between winning and losing, between rejecting loss and accepting defeat, between classiness and…
Well, I think it’s well beyond time the good denizens of Boston Red Sox Nation, in the manner only Peter Finch’s Howard Beale could urge, should go to our windows, open them up and scream down Boylston, Beacon and all points around the six-state region “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
That’s it. I want you to write John Henry. I want you to write Tom Werner. I want you to go to your windows, open them up and….eh. Get some fresh air. You’ve had enough hot air here for one day.
Then, again, the ship is either sinking fast or setting sail. Warning. Icebergs ahead.