14 years ago the Boston Red Sox were heading into the 2004 sense with renewed optimism. Even though the sting of Aaron F'ing Boone's extra inning game 7 HR had not quite faded, the Red Sox had added Curt Shilling and Keith Foulke to the team, and there was reason to believe 2004 could be THE year. Well, as much as any season pre-2004 could be considered THE year. Red Sox fans were nothing if not hopeless romantics about the team. Hopeless romantics that had been dumped, cheated on, and left at the alter more times than they can count, but still willing to believe the one was out there.
Then the 2004 season happened.
- Schilling won his first start, in Baltimore. I was there.
- "We don't throw at .260 hitters" happened.
- Nomar being traded happened.
- The steal happened.
- The bloody sock happened.
- Redemption happened.
Looking back, that is an entire generation's worth of iconic baseball history that occurred in a little over three months after the All Star break in 2004.
Why yes, I did my do annual re-watch of Faith Rewarded today. Why do you ask?
And yes, I did cry when Foulke lobbed the ball to Doug Mientkiewicz to finish of the World Series sweep. I've cried the previous 13 years, why would this year be any different?
However, I was thinking about how much has changed for Red Sox fans since 2004. Do you really worry about the team like you did pre-2004? I don't. I hope they keep winning, but if they don't win another World Series in my lifetime I'll be OK. I've seen three. That's three more than my father, grandfather, or great-grandfather saw. I'm excited about baseball season returning not because of any particular anticipation related to the Red Sox, but more just because baseball means summer and warm weather and the baseball season has a certain cadence that has been important in my life since I was a kid. Honestly, the most exciting thing about this summer is that we now live 15 minutes from the Richmond Flying Squirrels stadium, so I expect to see a lot of live baseball this summer.
Something else has changed too. Pre-2004 (or even the year or two after) if I was wearing a Red Sox cap out and about another fan would always make themselves known. Today, I can pass somebody also wearing a Red Sox cap and we don't even acknowledge each other's existence. If misery loves company we had plenty of company pre-2004. Maybe the sense of community is weaker now that the Red Sox are just another big money team? Or maybe there are so many bandwagon fans since 2004 that wearing Red Sox gear really doesn't mean anything? When I see a Yankees cap on somebody in Virginia my first thought is that the hat is a fashion statement, not a fandom statement. Have Red Sox hats hit that point?
I wonder if Cubs fans are experiencing the same thing now they too are just another well run club with money?
Or, is my point here bigger than the Red Sox winning a few World Series' and changing the team's relationship with the fans in the process? Has big money or something else so corrupted the game that the changes I'm talking about here are more universal and not directly related to 2004, 2007, and 2013?
14 years ago? I'm old.