Random Thoughts: Sox Wrap

Much like how I roll at a singles mixer, I’m all over the board.

-I’m sick of the Dropkick Murphys. When kids and moms start anticipating hearing your songs, but you’re not yet being played on Top 40 stations across the country, something’s wrong. It’s not really their fault that the Red Sox, NESN and Fox beat “Tessie” and “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” to death, but I get a feeling that we aren’t even close to hearing the end of them anytime soon. Stardom is great. Over-saturation is not.

(At this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention CK The Entertainer’s question as how exactly Aerosmith has been pushed out of the New England rock spotlight in this situation. If Papelbon is going to dance, why not do a jig to “Last Child” or “Love In An Elevator”?)

-Ditto all of the above for the Jon Papelbon dance. Our beloved feared closer is turning into a trick pony for the all too willing national public. He’s just starting out his career, people…is this the fate we really want for him? Maybe this? I like my closers ornery and unorthodox, not dancing buffoons. There’s still hope, but I think there’s a good reason why Josh “Stone Cold” Beckett chose not to follow up on his promise to dance if the Sox won a title.

-I, like others, was disappointed that the Red Sox championship parade was just two days after the World Series win. Considering a good percentage of New Englanders were draggin’ ass or absent (like me) on that Monday after, two days in a row off from work was probably a tough sell. However, I can definitely understand that the players wanted to get home after a long season of baseball though. Then again, what’s a few more days of being treated like gods, really? You think Alex Cora and Eric Hinske are eager to let this feeling go? Probably not.

Side note: It’s funny how the Boston media mentioned the players wanting to go “home” as the reason they didn’t want to stick around until Thursday. Considering they spend all but four/five months here and that their jobs are here, that’s a funny concept to me. My guess that home is double-speak for “getting the hell away from Red Sox fans and reporters for five months.”

-I really didn’t need to know that Curt Schilling wrote letters to his teammates in anticipation that he won’t return next season. It’s a great thing he did, but I wish some things were still kept private. This might sound crazy, but I don’t mind it when fans don’t know every single thing that happens between teammates. I think the sanctity of a clubhouse is one of those things that athletes will always have over civilians and anything they can do to help keep that curtain pulled helps with the larger-than-life aura they carry around. I realize we’re in an era where more and more fans are being brought past the velvet rope, but these guys are in a fishbowl enough. Back off a bit…

-Can NESN be considered a true media source? The parade coverage seemed more like the last day of high school as opposed to anything else. I felt bad for Tina Cervasio, normally a real pro, and her pandering act to the players’ kids and wives during the pre-game speeches inside the Fens and on the duck boats. Yeah, I know this isn’t Game 7, but still…

-Hinske, Royce Clayton, Brendan Donnelly and Eric Gagne will get World Series rings. The world awaits word on the ring fate for Wily Mo Pena (remember him?) and Jeff Bailey (you probably don’t remember him). The discussion on playoff shares and ring distribution was a favorite topic among my crew in 2004, especially when it came to Nomar.

-One of the topics I covered on NasonCast last week was the appalling media coverage given to the New York Yankees on Monday, less than 24 hours after the Sox had popped the champagne. While not much more can be said on the pitiful Scott Boras and his client A-Rod’s decision to announce free agency on Sunday night, a lot can be said on ESPN’s decision to air a SportsCenter special on the New York Yankees ‘Dynasty in Transition’.

The first item: New York hasn’t won a title in seven seasons. Boston has won two in four after not having won a single one IN ALMOST NINETY YEARS. Did ESPN just assume that everyone was tired of hearing about the Sox? Did they use up all of their airtime when they swept Colorado? What happened?

The second: For this special, ESPN trotted out Yankees superfan Mike Greenberg, Yankee apologist Buster Olney, Yankee announcer Michael Kay and about 121 other “experts” to discuss A-Rod, the impending managerial decision and everything pinstripes. I usually like Greenberg, but come on. Isn’t it up to him as a thought-leader for The Network to ask if this subject is relevant? If not, where are the editors and decision-makers? I felt all season long that the Yankees coverage on ESPN bordered on obsessive at times, the daily opinions on whether their season was taking off or sinking becoming nothing if not mind-numbing. In all actuality, this was a perfect bookend to a season where it became obvious that everything not Yankees was put not just on the back burner but behind the stove.

Finally, this team isn’t relevant anymore. (Did I say this already? It’s worth repeating.) I don’t care if they have a big payroll. I don’t care if they are in a state of transition. So are 50 other professional sports teams. I don’t care if they’re in a major media market. So are the L.A. Kings and New York Mets. I emailed ESPN ombudsman Le Ann Schreiber last week on this matter and I hope it’s a topic I see covered in her next piece. I cannot imagine I’m the only one complaining about this…or maybe ESPN has just stopped caring altogether about fair coverage. Believe me, the Sox get their fair share (Peter Gammons is a subject for another day), but if you tell me it’s anywhere close to the Yankees, you are insane.

Side note: I cannot imagine what it’s like to cheer for another team other than the Sox and Yankees. We must be the two most-hated franchises in baseball. Poor Kansas City and Pittsburgh, the latter of which announced their manager on the same day Joe Torre was named to take over the L.A. Dodgers. Great move.

You know, I think I’m going to call it good tonight. More on the Patriots and some incredibly invisible reporting following their victory over the Colts tomorrow….

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Red Sox Nation: End of Days

There is a Coors Light ad featuring former Arizona Cardinals coach Denny Green running featuring the fiery coach yelling, “They are who we thought they were!”, from an infamous press conference he did last October. On Sunday night, the same could be said about the Colorado Rockies. The Boston Red Sox knew what they had in front of them, but instead of letting them off the hook, the Sox completed a four-game sweep for their second World Series in four seasons.

Two titles. Four seasons. Read that for a minute and let it sink in. Just a few short years after the Nation became shriveled messes following an Aaron Boone home run to the left field stands in Yankee Stadium, we now have found paradise by the dashboard light…again.

Like in years past, this season was a marathon, a sprint and a grueling triathlon all in one. Somehow, we “survived” the J.D. Drew signing, Julio Lugo’s slow start, the late-summer swoon and the Yankees’ dogged pursuit that got them within 1.5 games of the A.L. East lead at one point. We bitched, we kavetched, we questioned, we cheered and ultimately, we were rewarded with something 29 other teams didn’t get: the shiny ring at the end of the season.

But it didn’t feel the same as 2004, did it?

We have known for years now that we’re not like other baseball fans. We take even the smallest moves seriously. We complain but don’t blink at the notion of paying $75 for the right to enter Fenway Park on a Tuesday night in April against the Devil Rays. We grumble at Sox Appeal but know a few people that would be great for it. We know people complain about the pink hats, but feel a bit better knowing that they look a bit better than those foolish Yankees flourescent caps you can find on most street corners in NYC.

But on this Monday, October 29, the world didn’t feel like it shifted like it did on Thursday, October 28, 2004. After 15 minutes or so of celebrating Sunday night, the emotion died down. There was no dancing in the streets, crying or thanking the big guy upstairs for a World Series win like there was in ’04. It was a World Series victory we were glad to get, but also fully expecting after the first three wins of the series. Let’s be serious: this might have been the most anti-climactic Red Sox clinching victory in team history. With Josh Beckett going in Game 5, there was no way the Rockies escaped past Monday. No way.

So, how did we get here? To me, 2003 and 2004 was like an amazing two-part movie, one season that essentially merged into two. That 2003 club caught the imagination of the region and helped re-ignite the widespread interest from fans across the country. The “Cowboy Up” era was personality-driven and talent-driven, the beginning point for a franchise that needed a re-imagining. Enter the New York Yankees and the return of the Greatest Rivalry in Sports and the dominos were knocked into motion. Following that crushing finale in the 2003 ALCS, the heartbreak of 1986 was understood by a new generation, one that would be unrelenting in its demanding of a world championship. The enemy was seen, the obstacles clear. Part one of what would be known as the greatest 24 months ever were halfway through. Then, the sequel was put into motion.

Part Two started off painfully as our heroes were to get a new weapon in the battle (A-Rod) who was eventually snatched away in the worst way possible: by the enemy Yankees. After two improbable allies were brought on board (Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke), the battleground was set. The Sox went into that 2004 season on a mission, fighting through hell itself to get to the goal, eventually slaying the dragon at the end. There were consequences and unfortunate souls set aside (mainly Nomar) and those two seasons created emotional wrecks of us all. But ultimately, any Red Sox fan will tell you that it was all worth it. No more Babe Ruth talk, no more 1918 chants, no more curse and no more inferiority complex. After Foulke grabbed the grounder and flipped it to first, we became part of baseball history and part of something much bigger. Most importantly, we became just like everyone else…or so we thought.

We expected the bandwagon to grow and for the unseemly side of being associated with a winner to develop. Having never been on the good side of a title win though, we had no idea how much Red Sox mania would sweep over the region. Even the term ‘Red Sox Nation’ changed from a unifying mantra to a full-blown marketing campaign and membership/revenue opportunity. After eight decades of frustration, it was now chic to be a Red Sox fan. This brought on the usual splintering within the group (the inane real fans vs. bandwagon fans debate) but it really didn’t matter to the front office who cashed in HUGE on this seemingly improbable victory.

2005’s first-round exit to the eventual champion Chicago White Sox went by without a whimper. After all, we were still in World Series bliss and it probably would have been inhuman to expect the Sox to gear up for another run after such a dramatic and draining two years. But 2006 rolled around and the pitchforks began to get sharpened. Remember that idea of absolving the Sox of any future World Series win if they could get just one? The phrase “I would never complain again” was never uttered so much as after 2004, but a scant two seasons later, the fanbase was hungry for another winner. The team missed the playoffs altogether that season, falling apart in August/September due to mass injuries. It was as forgettable a stretch as you’d ever want to imagine, but things were still happening like the development of talent that would help us in 2007. Patience is a virtue, but one that very few exalt.

Welcome to right now. Somehow amidst all of the swirling dervish that is Red Sox baseball, Tito Francona, Theo Epstein and the rest of the organization won in spite of us this season. I’m sure there were plenty of times that the front office would have loved to open up their minds and opinions on media/fan reaction, but they didn’t. They kept their head down and moved ahead into the oncoming army like a scene out of ‘300.’ They refused to air their dirty laundry in public which grated those who wanted to see an explosion of Billy Knight-level proportions from Francona during the team’s struggles in the second half. Everyone was to blame and everyone had answers, as irrational and irritating as they were. Right now, we look foolish, absolutely and utterly foolish. It’s our right as fans to voice our opinions, but we have to take our medicine when we’re wrong.

Red Sox Nation: we were wrong.

Last night, the fans responded, celebrating in the streets, high-fiving in bars, sipping celebratory beverages all throughout the Nation. But if you thought the ending to this story was a bit anti-climactic, you’d be right. After winning the first three games, we knew it would end Sunday night or Monday night with Josh Beckett on the hill. Much like in 2004, our World Series was truly the seven-game ALCS battle that preceded the Fall Classic. As we were out in the nightlife watching the game, I got a sense of just wanting it to be over already. It’s a long season for players and for fans alike as being a Sox fan 24/7 can be an exhausting process. A friend of mine told me he thought about being embarrassed to congratulate on us on the victory, but then decided he wasn’t. Why? Because the emotional ties we make to this team – a group of men whom we will most likely never, ever meet – are deeper than they should be. ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, I guess.

And this is where we find ourselves on this Monday, October 29th: we’re used to it. Following three Super Bowl titles with the Patriots and the 2004 uber-celebration Sox win, there’s a sense of ‘been there, done that.’ Considering the way we’ve gone about World Series wins (eight victories in a row and counting), being a little expectant of hosting another trophy could be expected. Call it cocky, call it arrogant but call it what it is: a great organization that puts a winner out on the field.

But I’m not ready to finish talking about this title yet. I will rejoice in talking about all that was this season, while eagerly looking forward to next season. I was embarrassed at today’s media coverage (especially the mind-numbing Yankees talk by ESPN today that was amazingly disrespectful), but I will save that for a post later this week. I plan on visiting Fenway Park in the next month as part of an annual off-season pilgrimage when things are quieted down a bit and you can breathe in all that is Yawkey Way in a much calmer fashion. We have been with this team since Spring Training, so why does there seem like there’s a rush to stop talking about this team now? Isn’t the idea to win the World Title and then (gasp) enjoy it?

But like many other fans, I will always miss the way it used to be. I liken it to ‘the chase,’ an old booking tactic used by pro wrestling promoters that wanted to find the next great challenger for the champion’s title. Throw the kitchen sink at the guy and make people root for him as an underdog, someone that people emotionally put themselves into to the point they feel vindicated when that title finally goes across his waist. Up through 2004, the Red Sox took the chase to a whole new level, more emotion-inducing than anyone in recent memory. The notion of keeping the faith swept over us like a red haze and after it was over, we were left with an overwhelming sense of ‘what now’? After this second title however, there is just one question left to ask:

Who’s next?

Yes Virginia, A-Rod Will Play For The Sox in ’08

The Statement: The Boston Red Sox will make a huge push for Alex Rodriguez in the offseason and he will sign a five-year deal worth $125 million in early-December.

I present five reasons for why the Sox would want to do it and five reasons why A-Rod will agree to it.

Are you ready to accept it? If so, click here for the story, simulcast on Small White Ball.

Dane Train Derailed, Evading The Feds and Blaring Fire Alarms

When my bleary eyes first saw daylight Sunday morning, it was not because of a beautiful woman. I didn’t see a bright sunny day and there was no fresh pile of money from the Tooth Fairy under my pillow. Rather, my slumber was broken by a blaring fire alarm, caused by the lady downstairs burning something in her oven. Happy Sunday, Josh Nason.

Interestingly enough, there was no sense of urgency despite not knowing exactly what was going on outside my door. I groggily put on some jeans, grabbed my wallet, jacket, cell phone and some gum, thinking that if I needed to be out of my apartment for a while, that’d be all I need. Granted if I awoke to a smoke-filled apartment, I would have been a bit more rushed. As I walked back from Dunkin’ Donuts, I got to thinking about fires and some of the irreplaceable stuff that would crush me to lose like my pictures, my laptop/IPod and my comic collection. (Yes, I’m a nerd.) A good friend of mine had an apartment fire a few years ago where he basically lost everything, minus the cell/wallet/keys combo I mentioned earlier. So, I ask you: if you were to have 120 seconds to get out of your place without knowing if anything would be there after you exited, what would you take?

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Overexposure can be a killer for entertainers. One of my biggest pet peeves in the music industry is the inability for some acts to just go away after nabbing success. Especially rampant in pop music, certain celebs just don’t subscribe to the thought process that it’s ok if you disappear for a while. The old saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” was said for a reason. Unfortunately, one of my favorite comedians is suffering from the dreaded “He’s everywhere” disease and I think it’s about to get worse.

With his meteoric rise in popularity, Dane Cook has become one of the most polarizing pop culture figures in recent memory. He epitomizes the mantra ‘you either love him or hate him’ as women and the younger 20-something set flock to him because of his cool guy demeanor, while his critics cling onto one solitary saying that unites them: he’s not funny. I personally enjoy the pop culture references and stage presence in his act, but that’s just me.

However, those that hate him really hate him and seem troubled by his success. There’s a website (www.danecooksucks.com), Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield’s 2006 rant and then this bizarre piece by MSN’s The Big Debate, just a few among the myriad of detractors out there. Leave it to the internet community -where there’s a cause and internet tutorials, there’s a way. The majority of my friends are not on the Dane Train and can’t figure out why I like him. Truth be told, I love his comedy but am not a fan of his movies. I saw Employee of the Month six months after it was released (laughed a handful of times) and have no plans to catch Good Luck Chuck. I don’t think he makes funny movies and apparently, I’m not alone.

Therein lies two issues. One is that Cook is doing too many movies. Between Employee, Chuck, Mr. Brooks and the soon-to-be released Dan In Real Life, that’s four movies in less than two years. Add in the success of his double cd Retaliation, HBO comedy special (sorry, event), HBO series Tourgasm, MLB promos and endless amount of tv appearances and magazine covers and no wonder that even the biggest Cook fans may be a little worn out. Given that history can show us what happens to those that are over-exposed, I’m surprised that his handlers haven’t pulled back the reigns a bit.

Expect to hear more about Cook in the next two months as his new cd drops in November, sandwiched around a major arena tour which will see Cook travel the country and perform in front of what will be huge crowds, capping off a two-year run that has seen him go from small clubs to entertainment magazine covers. My hope is that Cook will then disappear for a while and let us recharge our batteries. There can definitely be too much of a good thing and for those of us who still laugh when we think the phrase “I did my best,” we could use a break.

And please, please, please: no more songs like this.

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Finally, I’ve been transfixed by a New Hampshire story involving a couple who were holed up for almost nine months despite being convicted on tax evasion charges. It involved Ed and Elaine Brown who owed $1.9 million in taxes and were convicted in federal court in January. Instead of going peacefully into that good night, the two barricaded themselves into their home, fortified it and then went Koreshian on us, saying they wouldn’t go peacefully unless they were shown what law they broke. Throw in some guns, homemade bombs and crazy supporters and you have an old-fashioned standoff.

Until Thursday night, that is. The Browns’ open-door policy in welcoming anti-tax supporters came to bite them in the ass as two Marshalls posed as supporters and promptly escorted the Browns off the property and into custody, just like that. Long story short, it was your classic citizens vs. the feds clash with the government showing restraint because of the problems in Waco and Ruby Ridge. They learned from their mistakes and while costly, there was no national news-grabbing incident that would result in the government looking bad.

What has interested me is the feeling I get that people are behind the government on this one. In a society where we’re taught to buck trends and to fight authority, we rallied behind the ultimate authority in their attempt to take down two 60-year-olds. That amazes me. Anti-government supporters are traditionally seen as crazy zealots and looked down on, rather than be supported for their views that are bolstered by free speech.

Perhaps it’s because on an issue like taxes, we feel like no one should be special and if we have to pay them, everyone else should too. I found myself being more annoyed by the Browns than open to their views, probably because of the manner in which they opposed it. Then there was this story about a car registered to them being involved in an accident and because of the lack of car insurance, the person hit had no transportation to college. That’s not counter-culture or fighting for your rights. That’s being a downright pair of jerks.

Anti-government supporters will always be a presence, but until they understand how to sway the minds of the general public, they will remain a minority that is often remembered for their failings than their successes.