Most people who know me know that I am very passionate about Boston sports teams. I love the Boston Bruins, the New England Patriots, the Boston Red Sox, and the Boston Celtics all very much (and in that specific order). I even spent time in high school and college working for the Red Sox, mostly on the grounds crew, but also for a summer internship in the front office working for then-CEO Larry Lucchino.
It makes some sense. For as long as I could read, I would read the Boston Globe sports section every morning as a kid. I listened to or watched every single Red Sox game for a full season. Many nights I spent listening to the radio for my favorite teams or to talk radio before going to bed at night. As I got older, when I would be cutting weight for wrestling on the treadmill, I would have a Bruins or Celtics game on in the background to help me bide the time. I was (and still am) a sports fanatic. And part of being a Boston sports fan for many of those years was accepting that Boston was a town with losing teams.
These days, any time I tell someone I am from Boston or that I am a Boston sports fan, they scoff in horror (or jealousy). The running joke in Boston is that we have not won a championship in over 120 days. The Patriots won the Super Bowl and the Red Sox won the World Series, so now the Bruins are playing for a Stanley Cup and the question is whether or not they will end the drought. I can see why people from other places or fans of other teams are getting sick and tired of Boston and its sports teams (and fans). But am I really a jerk for being a Boston sports fan? Let’s dig deeper.
- Would your fanbase be any different?
I think this is probably the most important thing to consider: how would any fanbase react to winning all the time? I think the answer is pretty obvious.
Are Seattle fans with their “12th man” (after winning one Super Bowl) or the hopelessly defensive New York Giants fans (who are quick to point out their two Super Bowls over the Patriots) really any different than someone who just happened to be born in a different part of the globe?
It is funny to me that folks would pretend that their city would be any different if it won 12 championships in the last 20 years. Seriously, is there something different about any other city with a passionate fanbase – say New York or Philadelphia – to say that people would not find their fans obnoxious if the team was successful? Everyone hated Yankees fans during their run. Blasphemy, I say.
- How were Boston fans regarded prior to their teams’ successes?
Prior to the Patriots 2001 Super Bowl win, they had a blowout loss to the Bears in 1986 as well as a not very competitive loss against the Packers in the 90’s. They were regarded as one of the worst franchises in football before Bob Kraft took over, and he was able to keep the team in Foxboro (and not allow it to be moved to Connecticut). The Bruins had 5 championships – but as an Original Six team with a long history, this was not particularly impressive. The Red Sox were enjoying an 80+ year drought and the Curse of the Bambino. The only exception to the losing was the Celtics, who had a couple of dynasties years ago, but at present time in the 90s were setting records for being one of the worst teams in NBA history.
Where am I going with this? My early life was spent feeling like I was cursed. I know no one is going to feel sorry for me now, but people certainly felt sorry for people like me back then. They didn’t think Boston fans were obnoxious – they thought Boston fans were incredibly passionate and deserving of a better fate than the one they had. Why is it then that people turned against them? That leads to Point #3.
- People are incredibly jealous of success
I think this is a human nature thing more than anything else, but people are just insanely jealous of other peoples’ success.
Tom Brady and LeBron James are excellent case studies. Tom Brady’s peers in the league – even his most hated rivals – admit that he is one of the most likeable and humble people they have ever met. His story is incredible – sixth round draft pick turned six-time Super Bowl winner. He is a competitive person who is out there doing things the right way, doing good things for his community and setting records that may never be broken. And people hate him.
Why? Perhaps all those Super Bowls and his supermodel wife have something to do with it. LeBron James is no different. Just an objectively likeable guy who works incredibly hard, is a great role model, and literally builds schools and people will root against him time and time again. It’s in our DNA. Are there not people watching the NBA Finals right now with no vested interest other than to hope and pray that the Warriors do not win it once more?
- Emotions aside…how do Boston fans perform, objectively?
When we set aside our emotions, Boston fans perform particularly well in all sorts of metrics. WalletHub recently came out with a report that measured statistics on attendance, average price per ticket, team performance, presence of local teams, and so on, and decided that Boston is the number one city in America for hockey. When you span studies like this across the major sports, Boston ranks at the top or towards the top in every category. The Red Sox had the longest sellout streak in MLB history, for example, which spanned over a decade from 2003-2013.
In addition to winning at those categories, you’ll find that Boston fans vomit less on other fans than in cities like Philadelphia, whose fanbase on paper should probably be similar to Boston’s but for whatever reason is unable to root its teams to similar successes.
Now, in an effort to be somewhat impartial, I want to call it both ways. I’ve been in the belly of the beast and I have seen my fair share of Boston fans being flat out annoying. For example, I wish upon a man no worse fate than being in the bathroom at TD Garden in an opposing team’s jersey during a Boston Bruins playoff game. That seems awfully scary. While contrarily, I was that guy for a playoff game in Toronto and the most that the opposing fans could muster was that they liked my jersey.
There is something to be said when you take a passionate fanbase that has a Napoleonic complex about past struggles and wants to shove it in everyone’s face that they aren’t terrible any more. I think that’s a very real thing. It’s represented in the way that the media talks about Boston’s success and it’s certainly represented in the way fans feel about their teams and the annoying t-shirts they buy to rub it in everyone else’s faces. That being said, I really do enjoy wearing my t-shirt that has the Falcons 28-3 score over the Patriots in the 3rd quarter of the Super Bowl on one side, and the Patriots 34-28 victory in overtime on the back side. You have to admit, Atlanta kind of deserves the egg on their face for that one.