2012 Boston Red Sox Update: This is What Rock Bottom Feels Like, Right?

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I stared blankly at my computer screen for about 35 minutes before writing a single word of this column, which is actually a pretty good way to sum up the 2012 Boston Red Sox.

“The Red Sox – they’ll leave you devoid of emotion, speechless and drooling.”

What’s left to say? I feel bad for Red Sox beat writers who have to produce stories about the team on a daily basis. I struggle writing just one a week.

Word on the street is that the Sox blew a 4-1 lead in the ninth inning to the Rays on Thursday night and lost the game 7-4. I wouldn’t know for sure because I’d rather watch a beheading then a Sox game at this point, but my phone told me that Andrew  Bailey and Vicente Padilla teamed up to allow six runs in one-third of an inning. And really, that’s kind of an accomplishment in itself.

That begs the question though – am I a fair-weather fan? Or, on a larger scale, are most Red Sox fans fair-weather fans? I desperately googled “Red Sox television ratings” in an effort to get some actual numbers, but came up empty. So, instead, we’re just going to work off the assumption that people aren’t watching the games anymore.

If you are still watching, I commend you. You’re a braver man than I. But I think on a large scale, people have stopped paying attention. The sports radio stations no longer spend time talking about the team, the general public has stopped caring about the team and I think you’d be hardpressed to find an everyday Red Sox fan who could give you the team’s record off the top of his head right now (68-83). The Red Sox have become irrelevant. Out of sight, out of mind.

It’s an unfamiliar position. For the last decade, the team has done nothing but contend, at least throughout the regular season. September has never been an empty month, in which the Sox didn’t play a single meaningful game – until now. We’ve never had to wonder whether or not we just followed the team when they played well because they were always playing well.

Now that they’re not, basically everyone has turned their back, including me. For a fan base that takes pride in how hard they follow their team, it seems a little contradictory to just forget about the Red Sox during a down season. Think about how many Red Sox fans value the way they view the team as superior to people who just like to come to Fenway to sing and take in the experience. There is a an enormous portion of the fan base that considers themselves true fans, while the others are the Pink Hats, the ones who don’t really care about wins and losses.

How do those people feel now? Are they feeling a little Pink Hat-ish by not caring?

I don’t have the pulse of every other team in America, so I don’t know if this is just how it’s done or if we’re all out of line. Do Pirates fans stop caring by May every year? Were Orioles fans really excited a season ago when Baltimore beat the Sox to keep Boston out of the playoffs?

Here’s where I think the Red Sox and their fans are a little bit different: We’re not a $50 million team that went .500 because we weren’t very good. Far from it. We are a $150 million team that nurtured a culture of entitlement and struggled to put one foot in front of the other in regards to anything. We hired the wrong manager, overpaid players, made excuses, bickered both publicly and privately, underachieved offensively, defensively and pitching-wise and in just one year went from model franchise to laughingstock.

That’s the disconnect between Red Sox fans now watching the games in September of this year and, say…Angels fans not watching the games after they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention. The Angels fans who stopped watching should be considered fair-weather because their team didn’t have a monumental, structural collapse that changed the way they view the sport of baseball. Red Sox fans did have that collapse….

That changes everything, doesn’t it? We’re not watching the team not because they’re bad (although that doesn’t help), but rather because of the puzzle as a whole. We’re not watching because they’re overpaid and unlikable or they’re a bunch of young guys who have as much of a chance to make the team next year as I do. There’s no point.

I think we could all get behind a team that simply wasn’t good enough. I think that I’d still be turning on the television, at least for background noise, if the Red Sox were a tough, gritty team that just couldn’t get it done for whatever reason. I think I’d care about spoiling the Yankees or Orioles chances of making the playoffs, because there would be some actual reason for rooting. Now? It just doesn’t seem worth it.

A buddy of mine who’s not a baseball fan asked me the other day if I was still watching the Red Sox regularly, and the way he phrased it was that I’d be an idiot if I was. “You’re not STILL watching the Red Sox every night, are you?”

And I acted insulted that he would even ask. I thought it was obvious that nobody is watching. I’d love to get a look at the NESN ratings, because I’m sure they back up everything – nobody in their right mind is watching this team right now. Old guys who sit in front of the TV all day with blankets on their laps are making up the current fan base. The rest of us are occasionally checking box scores, reading the updates that get sent to our phones and thinking about the Patriots.

There are 11 games left until we can put a nice little bow on the season, forget it ever happened and start fresh, as fans of a team that’s 0-0 just like everybody else.

So are we fair-weather fans? I don’t think so. I think we’re just pissed.

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