If you’ve been paying attention, over the past couple days, you’ll notice that Over The Monster (and every other SB Nation site) got a big make-over. You’ll also notice that to kick-start this new era, we’re celebrating fan-hood; how we got here, and why we love the teams we do.
We’re doing this by way of a contest. If you haven’t participated yet, take a few moments to tell us your story in a FanPost. Any entry is appreciated, but any that is between 300-800 words would be rather ideal. SB Nation is collecting these responses, that you can see here.
My story begins in the summer of 2002. I had just recently turned 10 years old, and up until this point, I had barely heard of baseball. I had a couple baseball video games, and I knew that the Red Sox were our local team, but I had yet to embrace sports as a passion, or even as a passing interest.
I was a nerdy kid. I liked numbers, I liked books, and I liked expanding my educational aptitudes. I had known people kept track of stats in baseball, which was the first thing that caught my eye. That’s right, it wasn’t spectacular highlight plays of Pedro or Nomar, but numbers that first caught my eye. I knew the names of some players, but ultimately, what I cared about were tracking numbers, and trying to determine the predictability of baseball.
As you can probably tell, I wasn’t so much a fan of baseball as I was a fan of statistics. Nerd.
The 2002 Red Sox were a good team. They won 93 games, and they had some silly stats. Manny Ramirez murdered baseballs, and Pedro struck everybody out. We had two twenty-game winners. It was hard enough to get one twenty game winner in modern baseball, I had learned. Getting two seemed really impressive. So I sought to understand how and why.
In 2003, I began to actually watch baseball games. And while I would retain my interest in stats, my rationale for following the team had changed. I would play those baseball video games more often. I would chat with friends at school about baseball. I had become obsessed with the sport, seemingly overnight.
Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, and Manny Ramirez (my username namesake) were the three players instrumental in getting me to become a die-hard fan of the team. They were the known “stars” of the team. Every fan of baseball in New England loved these three players. We also brought in this David Ortiz guy. He looked strong, but he wasn’t a guy I had all that much information on, so I was super skeptical of his ability to play the game.
The season would be a fun one. I had fallen in love with the Boston Red Sox. I had already been a minor fan of the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bulls, more for their history, than anything. But my love for the Sox had gone far beyond any feeling I had for other teams. I was surprised to learn of their history, and their 86-year curse. Just like that, the brain began to churn. It should not be possible that a team would not win for 86 years. Eventually, they would have to get lucky, right?
The 2003 ALCS was my first experience in baseball that I actively remember. I remember watching games in 2002 and 2003, but no events really stood out to me. It was just baseball.
The 2003 ALCS was more. An incredibly back and forth series would come down to Game 7. Grady left Pedro in too long. Extra innings. My head was beginning to hurt. Once Aaron Boone crushed that Tim Wakefield offering, I understood. You can’t predict baseball.
It was this 2003 ALCS that was also largely instrumental in my becoming a fan. Had the Red Sox won, it’s not likely that I’d care as much about the team as I presently do. It was the unpredictability of the sport that had my attention now, and I began to love the game of baseball, and not just the Red Sox. It is because I love baseball as much as I do, that I am presently able to be so passionate about the Red Sox.
In 2004, the Red Sox obviously won the whole thing. I didn’t suffer for 86 years. I didn’t suffer for even 3 years. I had experienced a huge disappointment in 2003, but I had things way better than a lot of others did. That didn’t mean when the Red Sox won it all that I wasn’t cheering.
The nerdy kid who loved stats and numbers had become a fan who had stayed up way past his bed time, just to watch a baseball game. A child who had always valued following rules and getting to bed on time, had stayed up late, snuck into the living room, and watched the Red Sox win it all.
The moment of Foulke flipping the ball to Mientkiewicz is forever implanted into my brain. It had become a complete phenomenon on itself. I watched as Boston celebrated finally winning. It felt like the world was ending, and I just didn’t care. I had found something I couldn’t explain. And I loved it.
Several seasons, and two more championships later, I still have this feeling, and it’s akin to falling in love for the first time. Every season, when Spring Training resumes, the feeling returns.
You can’t predict baseball. I’ve tried. Even though I crunch numbers daily, and you can deduce some generalities, there’s not a chance you can tell everything that will happen in a season. I wrote a FanPost back in 2012. We had just finished the worst season ever, a season I’m pretty sure didn’t actually exist. I said then, and I quote:
“For the first time as a fan of the Boston Red Sox, I have a bad feeling about the future. Or at least the near future. The Red Sox have loads of resources, and it'd be stupid to think they'll take long to fix things, but it's one of those situations where you can't help but think, ‘This could be the start of a bad time.’“ - OOLF 2012
Of course, the Red Sox won it all in 2013. Because of course they did.
You can’t predict baseball. And that’s why I’ll never stop loving it or the Red Sox.