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If Boston Red Sox Players Don't Care, Why Should Fans?

Yesterday afternoon I had to stop to get gas. Much like the Red Sox, I was running on fumes, although I actually was able to make it to the station rather than simply giving up and abandoning my car on the side of the road, which is a nice way of summing what the team has decided to do with the 2011 season even though it’s only May.  But that’s not the story.

I was trying to use my debit card at the pump, and after it didn’t register twice, the screen blinked “Please see cashier.” So I walked inside, went up to the register and told the completely over-dressed and clearly smug manager that my card wasn’t wasn’t going through at the pump, and that I needed to put in $30 worth.

He said something stupid like, “Okey dokey, then,” and took my card and started to run it in his machine. Two tries through the machine , it still wouldn’t register.

“Somethings wrong with your card,” he said. “The strip is all worn. I’m going to have to punch it in manually.”

Fine. I wasn’t in a rush. But I should also mention that my debit card is customized with the Red Sox logo on the front of it. Smug manager saw this as he starting punching in the numbers, and he seized the moment.

“Oh here’s the problem! You’ve got a Red Sox card! No wonder it doesn’t work!” And with that, he let out some uproaroius belly laugh because, undoubtedly, his name was Carlito Sangiacomo or something, and he was a Yankees fan (lest we forget, the Yankees had DiMaggio and Rizzuto and Berra, so every man, woman or child of Italian descent in the Northeast is a fan.)

You know what I did? I put my head down, and muttered “Yeah, it’s rough right now.” Just like that, I had lost. I gave up like a beaten puppy, because I really didn’t have any other option. What the hell else was I going to do? I couldn’t look him the eyes and say “Just wait until the Yankees come to Fenway,” because he would laugh in my face. When the Yankees do come to Fenway, they’ll probably sweep the woeful Sox.

Now, to manager guy’s credit, he could see that the joke wasn’t really going over well with me and he stopped laughing and went back to thinking about veal pizzaiola, rather then driving home the point that the Red Sox are a broken franchise with uncorrectable flaws. With that, I walked back outside, pumped the gas and drove off, listening to anything other then sports talk radio.

That, in a nutshell, is the best way I can sum up the current state of the Boston Red Sox. They’re broken, in shambles, without direction, without leadership, and on a path that leaves their fan base with no reason for optimism, and the moral dilemma of  whether to root for an unlikable group of underachievers or turn its back on the logo they’ve always been happy to root for, whether the team was winning or losing.

The wheels are off the wagon, officially, and the wagon is going so far off any reasonable course that even the most optimistic, unrealistic fans are staying at home instead of going out to the ball park. The franchise’s record-setting sellout streak is still in tact, but only because the owners are giving the tickets away for every home game. Two days ago, there were tickets available on (shameless plug) for $9.

Over the last decade, you would have been lucky to get a Fenway Frank for $9. Now, the same amount of money can get you in to watch the show.

Of course, it’s a horror show, and people can only take so much gore. The ticket prices keep dropping, but so does attendance. Nobody wants to go watch a team comprised of guys they hate play baseball, lose and not give a shit. It doesn’t matter how much the tickets cost at that point – they’re not worth the price tag.

It’s not just the losing. It’s really not. That’s part of it, obviously – nobody would be happy about a 12-19 team – but it’s the way they’re losing that has made it so difficult to watch, and so easy to write them off. It’s the general make up of the team, the lack of accountability and the lack of caring – whether that’s just perception or not – that rubs people the wrong way. We want the players to feel the sting of losing, and feel the embarrassment of losing, because we all feel it.

There’s something wrong when the fans are depressed, and express concern for the product on the field, while the players take a stance of defiance and simply turn their backs on the problems. It’s a slap in the face, and it’s an issue that nobody in this part of the country has ever seen with this franchise.

The Red Sox have been bad in my lifetime. They weren’t good for various times in the 90′s. They missed the playoffs for three straight years from 2000-02. It’s not like we just expect the players to walk onto the field and win the World Series. Even with the two title since 2004, there is still a little bit a loser’s mentality with the fan base, and though the losses sting, we can all put up with them if we feel like there is genuine effort and a genuine want from the players on the field.

These guys don’t care. They don’t care about me, they don’t care about you and they don’t care about the uniform they’re wearing.

Would they rather win? Probably, but only because it’s the better of the two choices. It’s really not a necessity, nor a priority for 95 percent of them. It’s not part of the routine. Instead, it’s just about showing up to the park, going through the motions on the field, showering up in the locker room, being standoffish with the media, collecting a paycheck and getting some sleep.

Lather, rinse, repeat. There is no reason to think that the current players on this team won’t continue this self-serving routine until the day the season ends, because they’ve shown zero signs of making adjustments up to this point, and we’re one-sixth of the way through the schedule.

I don’t want to write about specific players because – honestly – I’m fed up with all of them. Maybe Dustin Pedroia cares, maybe Mike Aviles cares. But basically, it’s everybody, and it’s  waste of your time and my words to break down each and every individual issue right now.

But Josh Beckett is worth mentioning. There is nobody who epitomizes the general personality of the Boston Red Sox right now more then the spoiled, agonizing, defiant, fake-tough “ace” of the staff. If you want to see what the Red Sox are all about, take a look at their prized right-hander, the former “kid phenom,” who has it in his head that he’s still the best pitcher in the game even though the team couldn’t trade him for Bruce Chen if they wanted to (and they probably do).

If you haven’t read Gordon Edes’ column on Beckett that he wrote today for, then I suggest you do so immediately. It sums up perfectly the dumbfounding defiance with which Beckett currently operates, and his steadfast refusal to hold himself accountable for the way he’s perceived in Boston.

By playing golf the day after he was scratched from a start because of a sore lat – even if he was healthy enough to golf – Beckett laughs in everybody’s face. When we’re supposed to believe that he cares, and we’re supposed to believe that he’s injured, we can’t get behind him playing golf on an off-day if it might hurt the team.

It’s the perception. How can we see that, and he turns a blind eye to it? Or a stubborn eye, I guess. Maybe he thinks his 5.97 ERA will buy him some leverage.

When I was in elementary school, we had a cop come into our class and teach us D.A.R.E. It stands for drug abuse resistance education, so you can figure out, basically, what we were learning.

Well one of the techniques we were taught, as a way to say no to drugs, was to give “The Cold Shoulder.” Essentially, we were told to just turn away when someone offered us drugs. Look the other way, show them our backs and pay them no matter at all.

The Cold Shoulder.

I’m glad I remembered learning about it, because it’s time to put it to some actual use. It’s time to give the Red Sox The Cold Shoulder. From here on out, they can look at my back. They’re just as bad for my health as drugs would have been for me when I was 10 years old.

I hope people everywhere feel the same way. It’s not right to reward an organization that refuses to reward its fans for their dedication and passion. It’s not right to pay any amount of money – no matter how little – to the Boston Red Sox right now.

You still root for the laundry in the long run, but maybe for now you just pretend the laundry is in the wash. Let it get clean before you start rooting for again.

I’ll still keep an eye on the team, realisitically, but you won’t catch me at Fenway. I half-thought about buying tickets online for the game this Saturday, until common sense swept over me and I realized I’d simply be throwing away my Saturday night for $10 beers and a product on the field that is just as expensive, and just as unfulfilling.

In Beckett’s press conference after Thursday’s game, in which he gave up seven runs in 2.1 innings, he was asked a question about whether or not he understands how fans would poorly perceive his golf outing.

His response? “We get 18 off days a year. I think we deserve a little time to ourselves.”

I’ll do you one better Josh. You want a little time to yourself? You’ve got 131 games left in the season, and I hope they’re all played with empty seats surrounding you on every side.

Then you, and the other players who represent New England’s favorite past time, will have all the alone time you want. People are losing interest, and the crickets are moving in.

I’m done caring, if you won’t.

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