In case you randomly stumbled to this URL and have no idea where you are, this is a Red Sox website. I promise we are going to spend the majority of this post talking about the Red Sox. Take my word for it. That being said, I think it’s fair to say that at least many of us and probably most of us are interested in the Boston sports scene as a whole even if the Red Sox are (or maybe they aren’t!) your favorite team in the city. Even if you don’t follow other Boston sports, it can be hard to separate the Boston sports scene in general from strict Red Sox coverage. It’s all intertwined, at least at times.
With that in mind, let’s take a second to talk about the Boston-area football team. If you somehow weren’t aware of this, the Patriots are going to yet another Super Bowl. Since Tom Brady burst onto the scene in 2001, the team has essentially gone to at least every other Super Bowl. That is bananas, and is at least in the conversation for greatest run by any team in sports history. For someone who follows Boston sports fairly closely, even if I’ve fallen out of love with football just a bit compared to my childhood, it’s been an amazing run that I fully realize will never be repeated. Of course, like I said, we’re a Red Sox site, so we’re not going to talk about this run in detail. Instead, we’ll be looking at the effects of said run on the expectation for the Red Sox and Boston sports teams in general.
This isn’t to say that the city of Boston and its sports fans haven’t been intense — perhaps to a fault in some people’s opinions? — forever. There’s never a time in which I remember the city being lax, though admittedly the Tom Brady Patriots have been around for the majority of my life. Still, intensity has always been a calling card of the city’s sports fans. That out of the way, it certainly seems as if things have gotten worse in recent years. Perhaps it’s because I’m paying more attention to this sort of thing in recent years, or perhaps it’s happening everywhere and its timing in relation to the Patriots dynasty is just a coincidence. All I can tell you is that Red Sox fans’ dissatisfaction relative to the actual performance of the team seems to be as out of whack as I can ever remember.
Let’s take a quick second to go back through the last two seasons for the Red Sox. This is a team that has won two consecutive division titles, with both coming in different ways. In 2016, they had solid enough pitching but were carried by the best offense in the league. In 2017, the offense was frustrating but an incredible pitching staff and some underrated clutch hitting carried them to another division title. With 186 wins over the last two years, only four teams (Cubs, Indians, Dodgers and Nationals) have been more successful in the regular season over the last two years. It is also true that they’ve won only one playoff game over this time as well as the fact that they’ve seen the talent on the farm drop off in recent years. It certainly hasn’t been a perfect run, but it’s hard to deny that this has been a good team.
Despite all of that, you really wouldn’t know it by talking to the average Red Sox fan. Of course, this is not every Red Sox fan and I know some of you are going to stand up and say #NotAllSoxFans. I get that. Still, it’s either close to a majority or at the very least a deafeningly loud minority. Whatever it is, if you ask this particular group you would think that the Red Sox have been total failures in the last two years. The regular season is merely a preseason in these people’s eyes, and the fact that they’ve failed in the postseason nullifies the rest of the year. Hearing that this team has simply sucked is not uncommon. Again, I get that this is part of the Boston sports scene and there is always overreaction in every sports market, but it truly seems to be on another level right now.
Additionally, I should be clear that none of this is to say that people shouldn’t have high expectations for the team. The Red Sox are built to win now, and while good regular seasons are difficult and should be appreciated, winning a World Series is obviously the ultimate goal. It’s okay, probably even preferable, to be disappointed by falling short of that. There is middle ground between that sentiment and thinking anything of short of a deep playoff run is a disaster. It seems we’ve lost sight of that middle ground, and it’s causing a lot of unneeded anger around the city.
I’m not 100 percent sure that all of this has to do with the Patriots being in the midst of perhaps the greatest run of all time, but it certainly hasn’t helped. The football team has won so often that anything short of a championship berth for any other team seems like a snoozefest. They are run in such a professional manner (some, myself included, may opine that it’s professional to a boring extent) that any semblence of controversy around another Boston team is blown wildly out of proportion. “Belichick would never allow this!” is a fairly common thought around Boston. The Patriots are such a well-run organization that perfect team-building is expected from everyone. A lot of the time, this kind of thinking can make Boston among the best sports cities in the country with fans that want and demand winning at all times. Those expectations drive the teams to keep up with demands as much as possible, giving all of us a better product to watch much of the time. Just remember that this Patriots run is a total anomaly, and while you don’t have to settle for something like the Red Sox over the last two years, it’s worth acknowledging that there is a scale by which to judge, and objectively speaking the Red Sox are doing mostly fine.
All of that aside, Go Pats!