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October 14, 2003


Fuck Boston, and Fuck Baseball. (Pretty Much.)

Having watched and played baseball since I was about 3, and having lived in Boston for 6 years, I was pretty depressed after the fourth inning of Saturday's game, but the incident confirmed all the suspicions I've had about Boston since I decided to move away a few years ago. Boston, for the most part, is a city made up of cruel and arrogant people who think they are better than everyone else. And this seems to apply to the Red Sox as well, a team I've spent 27 years cheering for.

Growing up in New England, you are sort of conditioned to believe that Boston is indeed the "hub of the universe" as Emerson or OW Holmes or somebody once called it. New York, you learn, is full of crime and bad manners, but Boston is full of museums, colleges, and pretty glass or ivory towers. You take it for granted that you'll get mugged in New York but get educated in Boston. So when I moved there after college, I figured that everybody's defensive attitude and lack of respect was just the way people were everywhere. But gradually, it dawned on me that, no, in fact it was just Bostonians who treated everyone like crap, and the behavior I'd written off as human nature was actually specific to the area. (I confirmed this when I moved to NYC and contrary to everything I had ever heard, people were actually friendly here, especially relative to Boston.)

Once I realized this was the true nature of Boston, I began seeing absurd acts of disrespect everywhere in the city: people who worked at stores hated customers and argued over everything, the cops arrogantly dismissed everything you told them and could never trouble themselves to help you out or give you a straight answer, and racism was blatant, widespread, and ignored by everyone who wasn't directly affected by it. Everyone seems to think they're better than you, but this apparently is just a front, meant to cover up the city's deeper insecurities. As I've mentioned here before, while I was living there, the debate over "Which is Better?" shifted from comparing Boston to NYC into comparing Boston to Providence. This actually happened. So imagine the effect it had on the city as they suddenly realized they could barely compete with Providence anymore, nevermind New York. I witnessed perhaps the most glaring demonstration of Boston's insecurity on January 1, 2001, just after a pathetically skimpy fireworks display to welcome the new year. As the throngs marched from the waterfront towards the Government Center T station, a spontaneous chant erupted: "Yankees suck! Yankees suck! Yankees suck!" Hundreds of people. How many people in New York, at that moment, were thinking about the Red Sox? Inferiority becomes a rallying cry.*

There's been a couple articles recently which have revisited the notion that God hates the Red Sox. And no wonder: if there's anything God hates, I think, it's meritless pride. And still, the Red Sox act like the Catholic church, like they are the only true path to heaven. But they fail to realize that there are other ways. Pedro Martinez pointing to his head threatening a bean ball isn't really that different from the Vatican saying condoms don't inhibit the spread of HIV. Both are symptoms of self-importance so delirious it becomes malicious. "We're Red Sox, we can do anything we want," seems to be the operating sentiment at Fenway. Incidents like Saturday's only inflame the wars and undo all the goodwill the Sox may have garnered during the wildcard race. So when it erupts into violence, who can be surprised?

An additional problem is that Major League Baseball is complicit in Boston's sins. As many have observed, MLB allowed the "atmosphere of lawlessness" to continue and flourish on Saturday. How could Pedro not get ejected after his threats? How could Zimmer not be ejected for charging Pedro? It was this failure on the part of the MLB officials to lay down the law -- not just Saturday, but always -- that led to the melee and bullpen fracas later on. MLB treats its players like royalty who are beyond the law. Police were considering assault charges against the men involved, and yet they are not ejected from the game? They are merely fined? It would be laughable if not for the message this sends to everyone else in the country, including kids who watch Pedro point to his head and throw a 72-year-old man to the ground or see Manny charge the mound over a high pitch and think, "These are my heroes." These men who are paid millions to play a game and begin to act like it all matters -- like it's worth visiting violence on the opponent -- harbor a corrupt pride that tricks them into thinking that because they are good at baseball and make a lot of money, morality does not apply to them. And we, as fans, get caught up in it, and (especially in Boston) mindlessly defend the actions of our "heroes". I sat in a bar on Saturday where the crowd was split 50/50 between Boston and NY fans, and listened during the brawl as loudmouth Boston fans defended Pedro's bean ball and subsequent threats. How is this behavior defensible? It's not, but your inferiority complex, coupled with your conditioning about Boston and baseball, makes you think it is. At the same time, we are willfully duped into believing that a game between one team that pays its players $150 million and another that pays $50 million is fair and interesting. That's a sport? That's a competition? Once you realize this, how can you justify watching the games? At least one of my friends, a lifelong sports fan, has given it up, apparently unable to engage himself in a sport that is so essentially about money.

And yet.

And yet, there is something ineffable and rapturous about nine players arrayed on a field, and a ball flying towards the plate at a 100 miles per hour, and the sound the bat makes, a quarter of the time, maybe, as a player makes contact and puts the ball in play. Underneath the cash, the bureaucracy, the violence, and the false pride, the game has a poetry of its own -- just enough, sometimes, to make you hope. -adm

*Update: Is it merely a rabid anti-Boston bias that compels me to write this? Not at all. Even some Boston sports fans agree with me. Here's something from a decent Boston blog:

I may like watching Boston sports, but I can't freakin' stand your average Boston sports fans. The mob mentality, the posturing bullshit, the "your team sucks", "no, your team sucks" crap. The testosterone overflow, the complete loss of perspective, the WEEIrdos on the radio, the howling monkeys mugging for the tv camera, the cell-phone morons wavin' from the stands. Some of the players, too... the showboating, the cockiness, the "I'd like to thank my main man Jesus for helping me get that home run" idiocy. Being in the middle of all this madness makes me totally understand anyone who says, just as I used to, "Nah, I don't follow sports. Couldn't care less."

For some readers wondering about the racism I was talking about, here's a few recent examples: 1 2 3 4, and these are just the official things that come to mind...never mind all the crap I saw when I lived there. Do you ever wonder where Boston's integrated neighborhoods are? Anyway, here's a reasonable counterpoint to this post from a decent Boston blog. (Hey...that URL looks familiar!) We don't have comments turned on, but you can always email us.

The world shares your anger, ADM. Q104 is apparently refusing to play any Aerosmith as a result of the Fenway brawls (thanks Whiskas). Are these events just making you realize now that baseball, like most professional sports, is more about macho aggression, ego, and money than anything else? Also, please note another, and earlier, Fair and Balanced™ (and I mean that in the most complimentary sense possible) counterpoint on the merits of Boston by m@. -amy
Boycotting Boston, eh? Now that's more like it. Let's start treating them like they're French! From now on, it'll be "Freedom Cream Pie", "Freedom Market Chicken", and "Credit Suisse First Freedom" for me! For that matter, since Boston is so Irish, we may as well go after Ireland too...Make it one Bailey's Freedom Cream™ and one bar of Freedom Spring™ soap, too!

Ireland! What a bunch of sissies! -adm

categories: NYC
posted by adm at 1:01 PM | #


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