Since 2001 there has been a steady shift in the mentality of a Boston fan. Well, the young ones, anyway. It really took off in 2004 after the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
I watch most games with my Dad, he’s been a fan his entire life and he’s the reason I love the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox, and Bruins as much as I do. But as fans go, we are very different.
Lets look situation-ally first: Red Sox game, no score, bases loaded, one out, and Papi’s up.
My first thoughts: “grand slam, runs will score on a double, sac fly would score at least one, so would a single or a walk”. These are the first things that float trough my mind.
My Dad, on the other hand, is the pre-2001 vintage. His first thoughts: “Here comes the double play! They leave more men on base than anybody.”
We all know about Red Sox fans in the pre-2004 era. If one thing goes wrong they curl up in a ball, and get ready for the “inevitable”. And lets face it, a lot has gone wrong in his 50+ years of following Boston teams. The Patriots were awful for a long time, the Celtics were good in the early days, but then turned into a joke in the 90s, the Bruins have been up and down, and the Sox…well, we’ll just say they had some heart-wrenching losses in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.
If you consider what he’s seen, its understandable that he is, as I call him, a “Negative Nancy”. But I’ve noticed a similar issue with many of the older Boston fans. In April they were ready to throw in the towel, despite the fact that a baseball season had just started.
Why does this happen?
I’ve decided its all about heartbreak. I have been following Boston sports since I was old enough to understand. Lets assume the age of understanding is about five, so that’s 1991.
So in 19 years, I have seen the Patriots go to five Super-bowls, win three, lose one they had no chance in, and only one heartbreaking loss that still haunts me. I cannot, and will not look at footage from that day.
I have seen the Red Sox win two World Series, and make it to the playoffs almost a dozen times. I only have one heartbreak: 2003.
The Celtics were a joke in the 90s, and most of the 21st century, until the creation of the Big Three. Now they are pushing for banner 18. Last year was tough, but without Garnett, I did not expect too much.
So in my experience, the heartbreaks are much rarer, and the teams have played better. How many other cities can say their NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL teams have all been to the playoffs in the past three years? Not many. Three, to be exact: Boston, NY/NJ, and Arizona. And if we were not grouping the New York/New Jersey teams together, there would only be two.
If you look at it like that, it’s pretty darn amazing, especially since Boston has two championships in that span. But I look at things optimistically. I have a saying in my house, and I have applied it to every sport I watch. I don’t give up until the buzzer sounds or the last out is made. I refuse to admit defeat until the clock runs out, sometimes a little irrationally, but I have seen some terrific comebacks in my time.
That’s what separates the young fans from the old. The young fans feel the losses, and remember all the heartbreaks, but they also remember the joys, the triumphs, and some pretty amazing plays.
The older generation, the “Negative Nancys” have not recovered from the heartbreaks. They vividly remember ’67, ’75, ’86, and all the other close-but-no-cigar moments. To them this whole winning thing is new and they aren’t sure how long it will last, so they steel themselves against the inevitable.
So while the older generation is just waiting for the other shoe to drop, the younger generation is living in the moment. The older generation expects every walk allowed by a Sox pitcher to score, and expected the Bruins to go down after being up 3-0.
After watching game five of the Celtics-Orlando series, my dad said “They’re done, just like the Bruins.” A sentiment echoed by his friends, and the older fans I know. The young were more hopeful. Going home for game six, we knew the Celtics would win.
Does that mean the younger generation has more faith than our fathers, and grandfathers? No. Less pessimism? Definitely.
I gloated for a few days about how optimism always wins in the end. And who knows, maybe the next generation of Boston fans will be another batch of “Negative Nancys.” Maybe they will be irrational optimists, or maybe they’ll just be normal. That would be a switch, wouldn’t it?