By Mike Gold, A retired entrepreneur living the dream in the Pacific Northwest.
I’ve written before about our obsession with our home town teams. As a New England resident for over 30 years, I grew to love our home town teams. Of course, during that stretch, I suffered with all Red Sox fans as they ran their “never won a World Series” streak to 86 years.
Then, somehow the owner, John Henry, had the intelligence to hire Bill James who wrote the definitive work on statistical analysis of the game, called Sabermetrics. James actually worked in a meat packing plant and did this work on his own. It was prominently featured in the movie “MoneyBall” starring Brad Pitt – where he hires a young Yale statistician – to apply Sabermetrics to the Oakland Athletics – who are still searching for a title.
Billy Bean, the club General Manager (still) believes in this theory and to this day follows its principles. Meanwhile, the Red Sox ended their losing streak in 2004, then again in 2007, and of course, last year, 2018.
Those who are baseball junkies will remember that the Red Sox traded pitcher Babe Ruth to the Yankees so someone in Boston could finance a Broadway play called “No No Nanette.” That’s approximately when the “curse of the Bambino” started for the Sox.
But back to being a sports junkie. Turns out a high school classmate of mine, Rico Petrocelli, graduated in my class and from our high school and was signed by the Red Sox directly from school. So of course, even though I was brought up in NY City, I converted from being a NY Yankee fan to the Red Sox shortly after moving there.
Boston is a “nutty” sports town. I think part of it is there is a very strong Catholic Church membership in town, and I think that gives a certain amount of “religion” or “faith” in backing the sports teams.
Now that manifests itself in the attendees (any of the four major sports, baseball, football, basketball and ice hockey) having a rich tradition of getting all “tanked up” before and during the game. In fact, in two of the four sports, they stop selling alcohol about half way through the game. Otherwise, the number of “drunk and disorderlies” I think would become unmanageable. Especially at the Boston Bruins games, where there is rich tradition of throwing up on your shoes before the game ends.
I’ve attended NFL games in four stadiums. Boston, Denver, Seattle, and New York. In each case, the fans were as tanked up as in Boston.
In Denver in particular, they screamed loudly and throughout the game. Thank goodness the row behind us all went hoarse about the end of the first quarter. Otherwise, we would have had to leave. It was that uncomfortable.
Likewise in Seattle, I actually had to stuff cotton in my ears to avoid hearing loss. I have since read that the stadium was specifically designed to reflect the fan noise back onto the field. Apparently an advantage when the other team is on offense – they simply can’t hear the signals being called. So lots of opponent “off-sides” in those games.
Basketball marches to its own drummer. For better or worse, I don’t find those athletes quite as persuasive or well-spoken as some of the other sports. I recall one time in Madison Square Garden, a fan held up a sign that read: “Patrick Ewing can’t read this.” I don’t think that was true – but you get the gist of my observation.
It is quite apparent to me that our individual psyches get wrapped up in the success or failure of our teams. (I sympathize with the Mariner fans here. For whatever reason, they seem to find it “just out of reach” to get it all together.)
I also think it is a bit disappointing that an individual finds it necessary or even pleasurable to “wrap up his/her psychological well-being” in the local team. Hey people, as they say: “Get a life.”
It’s not as if the professional athletes would necessarily come to your aid if you needed it. I always like to refer to a great movie, “A Bronx Tale,” and a pivotal scene in that movie. A young boy, the son of a bus driver (Robert DeNiro) loves the Yankees. He is taken under the wing of a local hoodlum – who runs the neighborhood (much to dad DeNiro’s dismay). The gangster asked to speak with him one afternoon and they started to talk.
The hood asked the boy if he was a Yankees fan.
The boy answered, “I hate (other team name). They made Mickey Mantle cry.”
The hood then gave him the following “pep talk.”
The hood simply said to the boy, “See if Mickey Mantle will pay your rent if your father lost his job.”
The boy, of course, is totally defrocked and he commented, “I never thought of Mickey Mantle again.”
This scene made me feel sorry for the boy. He lost his innocence at an early age.
I note for all of your consumption, that in the last 12 months, the Red Sox won the World Series, the Patriots won the Super Bowl, and now the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup.
No city has ever won the championship within one year in all four major sports.
Now Boston may actually win three of the four. Only Detroit (1935) has that honor as of today.
I’ve got my fingers crossed. And of course, I will have a major melt-down if the Bruins don’t win the championship. (I should follow my own advice!)