Their joy lasted roughly nine months, until the Red Sox lost the American League East to the Yankees (again) and were swept out of the playoffs by the White Sox. The Red Sox won another World Series in 2007 … and by 2011, they’d so completely run down general manager Theo Epstein, the man who had built the title winners, that he left town to join the Chicago Cubs (he would help them break their own World Series curse in 2016.)
There’s an old George Carlin joke about what doing cocaine makes you feel like: “It makes you feel like doing more cocaine.” No fan base has exemplified how cheering for sports teams is a constant, fruitless search for a better, ever elusive high than Boston sports fans. Go find your closest friend who cheers for Boston teams. Does that person look happy to you? Compare this with Cubs fans, who still seem to be walking around in a narcotized happy daze two years after their championship. Red Sox fans have had no such grace period.
Boston fan anger has been the beating pulse behind some of the ugliest, often dumbest stories in sports, from Deflategate to Spygate to Barstool Sports to anytime Ben Affleck shows up at a game. In a just world, Boston sports fans would be sitting in a corner, drooling in a state of constant euphoria, overdosing on the drug of championships that every other city’s fan base dreams about. But if anything, all these championships have made Boston fans more insular, more protective of their particular fief. When all the conflicts have been won, when you have been the victor of You vs. Yankees, You vs. Goodell, You vs. Lakers, all that is left is You vs. World. It is an opponent, I’ve found, Boston fans have gleefully signed up to battle.
Part of this is generational: My son can’t remember a time when Boston wasn’t the centerpiece of the sporting world, but millions of fans over the age of 30 certainly do. To those who wept especially for the Red Sox and Patriots and Bruins and less so the Celtics over the years, Boston teams and their fans will always be underdogs, no matter how much success they’ve hard. We’ve earned this, they’ll argue. This is payback for our pain.
That may be true — though fans in Cleveland, Buffalo and Atlanta might have something to say about this — but that the historical balance sheet might have been leveled long before now doesn’t seem to occur to most Boston sports fans. They have been given, and given, and given, and they still want more.