The Providence Journal: October 18, 2011
By Chip Benson
If it were a hit television show, the Boston Red Sox season just ended with a perfect cliffhanger. You want the drama? You can’t handle the drama! Fenway Park is drowning in drama.
The face of the franchise, David Ortiz, aka Big Papi, says he would prefer to play for the Yankees, because they are a more stable team. Ouch! Terry Francona, the “greatest manager in Red Sox history”, resigned feeling unappreciated. Sniff! And now the brains behind the baseball operations, Theo Epstein, is leaving, as the culmination of a long simmering power struggle against Fenway Sports Group President Larry Lucchino. Woof!
Yes, women still watch soap operas during the day, but men are far worse with their baseball games at night. Red Sox fans of the male variety seemingly call into sports talk- radio shows at all hours for the pleasure of yelling at each other about their opinions. Talk radio? It’s more like yell radio! The sports journalists at WEEI and 98.5 The Sports Hub stir the pot like bad troublemaking trial lawyers. Add in the daily criticism from newspaper, television and on-line reporters, and sports bloggers (that’s a real word now!), and the resulting scrutiny and drama—some call it journalism—are enough to drive a team stark raving mad!
Boston sports journalism has long had a misanthropic reputation, and this latest chapter in the 99- year history of Fenway Park has them perhaps rightfully claiming back their position of power and authority in town. The owners of the Red Sox, John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, have built a very successful and first-class business over the past eight years. They acquired other sports properties, in and out of the United States, to try to build a better, stronger overall product, with deep pockets. The better to compete with the Yankees. Yet now they face an even bigger challenge: the wrath of local sports journalists who act like angry union reps for the legion of baseball fans in New England and beyond.
Like any good soap opera, the Red Sox have no real off-season. True, they don’t play baseball games from November through February, but the Hot Stove season of speculation and gossip is already upon us, and it is extra-personal, scurrilous, and scandalous Witness the past two weeks.
New Yorkers are just as bad at losing, but in a much bigger city, the spotlight quickly falls elsewhere. Not so in Boston. The unbearable light of being with the Red Sox eventually seems to get to everybody, and then they have to leave. When will it get to ownership? If and when that happens, New Yorkers will truly celebrate the stunning fall from grace of their chief rival, and still the only team to win the World Series twice in the 21st Century.