Let me start by saying I am a lifelong Red Sox fan. I don’t think it is humanly possible for me to actually hate or root against the Red Sox.
But the 2011 Red Sox are testing me. Seven games into the season, this is a team that is tough to love, and not because they are 1-6, although that doesn’t help. It’s because the Sox are in serious danger of joining the list of teams that tried to bring in this best people money could buy, and ended up with a whole that was far less than the sum of the parts.
What does this team lack so far? A number of things that any organization or business needs to be a fan favorite.
Character: The 2004 Red Sox were like the not-so-evil opposite of this team. That team had character, with Johnny Damon’s hair, Papi’s enthusiasm, Kevin Millar’s charm, Trot Nixon’s work ethic and so on. The closest thing this team has from a character standpoint is Dustin Pedroia. The other stars – Youk, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz – are great players, but there’s not a lot of charisma there. The other charismatic stars, like Papi and Paps, have lost some of their luster.
Sorry guys, that makes you tough to rally around.
Hustle: Is it just me, or has this team not only been getting beaten, but doing it with all the anger and swagger of a garden gnome. Who’s pissed? Who’s willing to throw a helmet, trash a locker, announce that this team is too f$&@ing good to get swept by the f$&@ing Indians, of all people?
Anyone… Anyone… Bueller? You can call it professionalism. I look at it as a team that isn’t fired up. And that can mean a loooooooong season ahead.
Spirit: This ties into hustle. If you can’t have swagger, you need to have some sort of other spirit. Underdogs get fired up because “No one thinks we can do it.” This team can’t claim that, and they miss it. They need a fight. They need the equivalent of sending Shawn Thornton out to go pound the other team’s enforcer, get the crowd going and the team fired up. Come to think of it, they need a Shawn Thornton, period.
Karma: The Sox are generating no good karma. Representing the most egocentric athlete of our times in Lebron James does not generate good Karma. Chanting “Yankees suck” when our 0-6 team might finally win one doesn’t generate good Karma. If we were the underdogs, it could be cheeky. For this team, it’s far from it.
Bottom line, I will always root for the Old Towne Team. But I have to admit, I’m shopping for a team that is young and hungry. A team that can surprise. A team that doesn’t have $140 million tied up in two former aces (Beckett and Lackey) who have sub-.500 potential and sub-.500 personality to match. Maybe it’s the 5-1 Orioles. Maybe it’s the unbeaten Rangers. (Nah. But the Rangers do remind me of the ’07 Sox in some ways.) Maybe it’s an NL team that could surprise.
That way, while I cheer on the Sox, I’ll have someone to love, too.