Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How Does it Feel to Always Root for a Loss?

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”

Precursor: The Horror Show

This past Sunday is already being billed as the greatest day in recent Boston sports history, and I happened to have a front row seat for it. I watched the Patriots game alone at my apartment in South Boston, and the Red Sox game at the L Street Tavern with my roommate Doug (also from NY, thank God). The feelings that I experienced during David Ortiz’s grand slam and Jared Saltalamachia’s walk-off single the following inning can only be described as a potent mixture of bewilderment, anger, and nausea. But as I walked home from the bar, head hung low in defeat as the clock had just officially brought us into 12:01am Monday, I had a few thoughts on how such a night could happen and what it meant for a NY transplant like myself.

Rooting for Negativity

It’s worth nothing that I actively root against all 4 of Boston’s major sports teams, probably more frequently than I root FOR my own NY teams, simply because of who is always on TV. This is a particularly strange position to be in, because you’re always rooting for a negative outcome. When Boston wins, I’m disappointed, but when they lose, I’m more relieved than excited (although I’m pretty excited). It doesn’t feel like a healthy mentality. You might ask: why do you even care? And you’d be right to wonder. I mean, I suppose I could just...not watch. When not watching my own teams, I could just tune out. I could not concern myself with Boston teams, not read Twitter or the Boston Globe. I could simply care less, and treat Boston sports the same way I’d treat those of Philadelphia or San Diego. But no, no, I can’t do that. It’s like a lot of my other habits and pastimes: slightly detrimental to my physical or mental health and doesn't add any tangible value to my life, but it is enjoyable and so in that alone I find it necessary.

one of the greatest moments in Brian sports history

So that is the position from which I watched Sunday’s disaster. It wasn’t until the following day at work and all the “buzz” the Red Sox and Patriots had generated that I had to ask: what if such a day occurred in New York? ( I can’t remember anything of the sort, but please somebody help me out if you can).

A Tale of Two Cities

Such a double-dip of sports triumph seems impossible for New York. With 2 baseball teams and 2 football teams, that leaves 4 possible combinations of who you like. A come-from-behind-victory by one team in each sport could therefore only be enjoyed by a fraction of people that fancy themselves football and baseball fans in New York. By very crude math, 25% of sports fans in NY could enjoy a moment like Sunday, to Boston’s 100%. And that Boston 100% is what will haunt me til my very last days.

The Patriots and the Red Sox are the only teams to root for in Boston in their respective sports. As such, if you like that sport, you automatically like that team. But even if you don’t like that sport or league, when questioned on your favorite team, you’ll produce a single answer, often without hesitation. “Oh, Pats, for sure”. Hence the 100%

With NY it’s always more complicated, because there’s more than one team to choose from in each of the major 4 sports, so any team that you might say is your favorite is an active choice both for that team and against any others. I like the Yankees, so I have never and will never say I’m a Mets fan. In Boston, if you’re indifferent about baseball you default to the Red Sox. In New York, if you’re indifferent, you’re simply that: indifferent.

Indifferent Defaulting

The fact that the Red Sox and the Patriots are the default teams, and since the good spirit towards them is the overriding sentiment, everyone can at least loosely attach themselves to that moment. It’s an annoying thing to watch. They say that in most college towns, the football or basketball team is “the only show in town”. In Boston,  in a broader sense, each of the 4 teams are the only show in town. Sunday just happened to be a double feature. For me, it was a complete horror show. New York, on the other hand, has a variety of shows in town, and that’s just using a figure of speech. When you consider all the other  real shows in town - broadway shows, tv shows, smoke shows, freak shows, side shows - it’s a wonder people watch sports at all.

I guess what I’m saying is that the singularity surrounding Boston sports allows it to seem alot bigger than it is. Boston as a collective sports town is a big fish in its own small pawnd. I will concede that it’s a great sports town, and yet part of me wonders how much this “sports hegemony”, over fans and non-fans alike, has to do with it.

The best example I can think of is last spring’s NHL Playoff series between the Rangers and Bruins. Dan Shaughnessy, the Skip Bayless of the Boston Globe, wrote that “New York isn’t a hockey town” and that there wasn’t any buzz surrounding the Rangers’ playoff chances, especially when compared to the buzz surrounding the Boston Bruins. While some of the individual things he points out may be accurate, the greater idea present in his article sort of proves my point: there are plenty of Rangers fans in NY, quite passionate ones at that. There are also just a ton of other people in New York City, most of whom don’t attach themselves to the Rangers in some vague sort of way because they’re the only team in town. A Boston beat writer couldn’t wrap his head around this, and it shouldn’t be New York’s fault.

I really like how New York sports teams are a choice. My dad was a Yankees fan and my mom is a Mets fan (a pretty good one, too. Not just “for a woman”, but “for anyone”). I inherited the Yankees from my Dad, and if he didn’t like baseball, who knows, maybe my mom would’ve got me into the Mets. But whether by inheritance or some other means, if I wanted to become a baseball fan I would’ve needed to actively root for a team and therefore rule out any possibility of rooting for the other one in NY. In Boston, it would appear, you don’t have to do anything at all. When people ask you, though, you like the Sawx.

I swear I’m more fascinated by these disparities than angered by them. As I mentioned at the beginning of this wordy post, it would be a lot easier to just drop the whole thing altogether, but it also wouldn’t be nearly as fun if I didn’t have something to constantly harp on. Like most Boston sports teams, this phenomenon of “sports hegemony” and “indifferent defaulting” is tough to watch for anybody not from here, but can be particularly maddening if you hail from New York.


  1. Mike Vaccaro wrote an article that answers one of your questions and proves one of your points.


    Has a similar day happened in NY?
    "On the evening of Oct. 27, 1986, Ray Knight hit the home run that put the Mets ahead to stay at Shea Stadium in Game 7 of the World Series; over at Giants Stadium, at that very instant, the roar provoked by news of Knight’s smash caused Redskins guard Joe Jacoby to false-start. The Giants soon scored a go-ahead touchdown to beat Washington, 27-20, and move into a first-place tie in the NFC East, the first of 12 straight victories on their way to their first Super Bowl title."

    In support of your point: I'm sure my dad was rooting like hell for the Giants, and -- as a Yankee fan -- would have been indifferent toward the Mets if they hadn't been playing the Red Sox.
    Also, I'm sure that Unborn Baby Fran was glad that the Curse of Ruth lived on that night.

  2. Yeah the "twinkle in my Dad's eye" was definitely glad the Mets pulled that one out as my mom was celebrating somewhere altogether separately rocking a rad 80's hairdo.

    Thanks for that article, guess I would not have had to look too far to find a similar NY day...even though it was over 20 years ago.