Why the Sports World Hates Boston

The Red Sox are world champs, the Patriots are (almost) perfect, the Celtics are dominating the NBA, and all their insufferable fans won’t let any of us forget it.

The accent, that’s where it all begins. Pahk da cah. Look at the stahs. Nomah was great, but Rogah’s not. Man, I loathe that accent. And what about the so-called superstars? Tom Brady, who struts around as if he manufactures gold nuggets within the confines of his anus. David Ortiz, who as a Minnesota Twin couldn’t hit an off-speed pitch were it tossed to him underhanded. Kevin Garnett, just another over­priced carpetbagger brought in for a ring (see: Moss, Randy; Allen, Ray; Beckett, Josh).

And don’t get me started on the coaches. Terry Francona—who was Frank Lucchesi II with the Phillies—is reborn a genius? Doc Rivers, a medi­ocre NBA point guard who was run out of Orlando, receives two All-Stars for Christmas and morphs into the next Red Auerbach? And Bill Belichick…Well, what’s left to say? Cheater, fraud, liar—the list goes on and on.

Most of all, though, what many of us hate—truly, truly hate—about Boston are the fans. What was once a city composed of pathetic yet lovable losers conditioned to accept failure has, within a relatively short span of time, turned into a collection of the loudest, most obnoxious, most ornery fans in America. By the time the overconfident Patriots rolled into the Super Bowl, the rest of us had had enough. It’s bad enough that the Red Sox are going into opening day as defending World Series champions (again!) and that the Pats have appeared in four of the past seven Super Bowls (and won three of them). But now, not only do the Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce Celtics appear
primed for a deep playoff push after years of ineptitude, but Boston College’s football team spent much of the past season undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the nation. Hell, even the Bruins don’t completely suck.

“There’s an undeniable metamorphosis—the fans here have become front-running bastards,” says Leigh Montville, a former Boston Globe columnist and the author of the best-selling Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero. “Boston fans traditionally sat around and lamented and hoped for brighter days. Now that those days have come, I’m not so sure we’re better off as a people.”

As a native New Yorker (albeit as a Mets fan), I’ve long disliked Boston sports—it’s a birthright. Yes, throughout my boyhood Bean Town’s teams were scrappy and hard-nosed, but at the end of the day they held the significance of yesterday’s meat loaf. The Red Sox would fold. The Patriots would fold. The Bruins would fold. The Celtics (we’re talking the Rick Fox, Pervis Ellison, Todd Mundt era here) would fold. Then the fans would silently slink off into the darkness, heads down, mouths shut, anxious to chug a beer (or seven) to numb the ritualistic pain…

Ah, the good ol’ days.

Now everyone in this great nation of ours has joined together in a visceral dislike of Boston—with good reason. When it was just the Yankees and Red Sox, non–East Coast denizens could praise Bean Eaters as good ol’ fashioned giant killers. (Was there a greater sport unifier than the image of George Steinbrenner on a dartboard?) The last few months, however, have marked a tipping point. First there was Spygate; then the Sox waltzing into the Fall Classic like another title was a foregone conclusion; then it was the Pats going out of their way not merely to beat but to humiliate oppos­ing teams from across the map. Even after their epic Super Bowl upset loss to the Giants, Pats fans insisted they were robbed. Whatever the moment, the city has become Public Enemy
No. 1. Why, in an ESPN poll taken shortly before Super Bowl XLII, fans of the 30 other teams were asked whether they were rooting for the Giants or the Patriots. Without fail, every single fan base admitted to pulling for New York.

Now flash back to Sunday, February 3. Approximately 20 rows up, in Section 137 of the University of Phoenix Stadium—an area dominated by New York fans—four large men with thick Boston accents spotted the scoreboard displaying a highlight reel from the Giants’ regular season. For the ensuing five minutes, one of the lugs stood and repeatedly screamed, “What-ev-ah! What-ev-ah! What-ev-ah!” When the Giants trotted onto the field, another of the men turned toward a gaggle of New York die-hards and, without solicitation, barked, “Giants fans, your weekend is ovah! O-V-E-AH! O-V-E-AH! O-V-E-AH! O-V-E-AH!”

It wasn’t so much the absurdity of the scene (two of the men literally appeared to be rejects from the Mr. Clean: The Movie casting call) or even the dramatic misfire of the prediction. No, the most irksome thing about the whole situation was how it perfectly represented what Boston’s sports fans have become.

In a word: assholes.

Yes, you read that last line correctly. Boston’s sports fans have turned into assholes. Just listen to WEEI, the local sports talk radio station, where one caller after another still praises Belichick—the Dick Cheney of football coaches—for his genius and integrity. Just check out the alarming number of local fenders adorned with bumper stickers that read, I’d rather my daughter work in a whorehouse than my son play for the New York Yankees. Just listen to the talk of a Sox dynasty, of a Celtics dynasty, of a Pats dynasty, of a 2009 season that will surely feature Brady throwing for 800 touchdowns and 700,000 yards, joining the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and leading a NASA mission to the molten inner core of Mercury. On the heels of the Super Bowl, and with both the Sox and Yankees reloaded with young guns (the Joba Chamberlain, Clay Buchholz debates are already raging), the age-old New York, Boston rivalry may well be approaching uncharted new heights—only now the Massholes have the upper hand.Believe it or not, Bean Town was once a mecca of righteous sports fans. In the late 1800s, a group of Red Sox loyalists dubbed the Royal Rooters comprised what baseball historians consider the sport’s first fan club. The Rooters would follow the team to spring training, attend games at Fenway Park en masse, and sing the show tune “Tessie” when their boys needed to rally. From 1903 through 1918, the Sox won five of the first 15 World Series—an ode as much to quality players as to die-hard followers.

“They were passionate supporters, but also respectable supporters,” says Peter Nash, a noted baseball historian. “The Royal Rooters lived and died with the Red Sox—and laid the groundwork for other American sports fans.”

Following the 1918 season, however, the Rooters disbanded, and a year later their team traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees for six pebbles and a pack of Lucky Strikes. Another 85 seasons passed before Boston won a World Series. “It’s become cliché to write about how bad everything was for so long, but that’s not really the case,” says Steve Buckley, a Boston Herald colum­nist and city native. “Sure, the Sox blew a lot of clutch moments. They lost Game 7 of the 1967 World Series; they had the ball go through Bill Buckner’s legs in ’86. But would you rather have your hopes dashed at the last moment every single time, or would you rather be out of contention by May? Sure, we experienced a lot of heartache. But I see it as building character.”

If heartache equals character, Boston should be a city of Abraham Lincolns. While the Celtics
thrived throughout much of the century behind the likes of Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and Larry Bird, fans were ritualistically let down by their other teams. The Pats failed to reach a Super Bowl until 1986, when Steve Grogan and Co. were crushed by the Bears, 46-10. The Bruins, meanwhile, are about to experience their 36th straight season without a Stanley Cup.

So where is the famous Boston humility? Where are the lessons learned from Buckner’s historic gaffe? From Bucky Dent’s home run? From Bobby Orr’s retirement? Where is the supposed dignity and maturation that comes from surviving tough circumstances?

Answer: It’s gone.

“The old way of thinking is dead,” says Ken Casey, bass player for the Dropkick Murphys, a beloved Boston-based Celtic punk band whose “Tessie” cover became a huge regional hit. “We used to assume our spirits would be broken at the end of the day. Now we’re cocky, we’re arrogant, and we’re standing proud.”

To illustrate his point, Casey recalls Super Bowl Sunday, when he, his band mates, and about 30 associates watched the Giants-Patriots clash from a hotel room in Aberdeen, Scotland. Everyone present was a die-hard New England fan, save one lowly sound technician who rooted for New York. So, in the game’s aftermath, did the Murphys let their friend enjoy his moment? Did they allow him to revel in the joy of Super Bowl triumph? Did they pat him on the back and say, “Nice job, bud”?

“No friggin’ way,” says Casey. “We chucked beer cans at his head and told him he could go straight to hell.”