The State of the Red Sox

A memoir to what could have been and how the 2012 Red Sox are the crack-baby everyone thought was going to be okay

“I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend, You could cut ties with all the lies,That you’ve been living in, And if you do not want to see me again, I would understand” – Third Eye Blind knew the 2012 Red Sox way before we did

I’m a Resident Advisor at a small school north of Boston. It’s my job to know everyone in my own little wedge of our community. However, in about a month’s time, you can know just about everyone on campus and what they did last weekend. It’s an incredible community that I personally love and rely on, that holds every member accountable for their actions, that loves every member unequivocally, and, every so often, that gets a bit boring.

How could it not? Living in the northeast, the hustle and bustle of everyday life even outside of the city is normal. You get used to seeing the same faces during your routine, but you also know you’ll see a million new ones on a daily basis. It’s just how it works. But here, it’s never new. In just a few short weeks’ time, even new first year students get the drill and have figured out the routine. You know who you’ll see, when and where you’ll see them, and how to avoid them if you want to. You know you can avoid them today, but not forever; Any “out” you find is simply temporary. Every so often, you need a shake up, a fresh brew of faces compared to the stale, getting-cold-cup-of-coffee you drink every day (And to my friends and colleagues at school – I’m not calling you stale or cold, it’s just my analogy, roll with me here) (And to everyone else, the fact that I just had to say that somewhat proves my point, does it not?), which is why I love September. Every year, a fresh start rolls through. A whole new batch of first year students marches onto campus wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, rarin’ to go. As an Orientation Leader and Co-Senior Resident Advisor of an area that houses approximately 400 emotionally supercharged first years, right now I’m drinking a pretty damn good cup of metaphorical coffee.

During move-in this year, I jumped around from room to room, talking to parents, welcoming students, assuring everyone that I would take care of them, we’d have a blast, and simply that everything was going to be fine. One of my new residents in particular stood out though. This new student is from Chicago and was wearing a Chicago White Sox jersey with Kevin Youkilis’ name and number on the back. Suddenly, in the midst of me telling everyone it was going to be okay, I thought to myself “maybe it’s not”.

Of course, I was no longer thinking about my residents, but instantly trapped in an endless spiral of Red Sox-related panic. I had masked my emotions, guarding them from would-be naysayers all season long. But suddenly my worst fears and suspicions came crashing down: Not only did the team I loved abidingly suck, they were going to suck for a long time because of the snakes running the organization, the incompetent arrogance in their (in)ability to run the franchise, and the growing apathy of the overpaid, trapped, miserable athletes in the clubhouse.

A few months ago, I came up with a fairly accurate analogy of my emotions towards the Red Sox that I’m fairly certain I’ve beaten and continued to beat long after everyone got the point: The Red Sox were like my children.

I found baseball in 2003 as an 11 year old and instantly fell in love. The Red Sox could do no wrong in my book. I hated the Yankees for reasons I didn’t nearly understand yet, but I hated them relentlessly nonetheless. I was the proud new parent of a bouncing baby boy and no one could wipe the smile off of my face. In 2004 when Keith Foulke tossed the ball to Doug Meintkiewicz for the final out in the clinching game of the World Series, it was probably the greatest moment of my entire life . It was like my baby’s first steps, or their first day of school, or their first A+, or whatever other cliche you’d like to insert here. As the years passed, I grew prouder and prouder of the team I was raising. They won again in 2007 and I thought to myself  “Hey, you’re doing this right. Good work”. Because, you know, being a fan means everything to your team’s success, right?

After their string of successes, they fell down. It was to be expected, and a great learning opportunity. Although some of them hurt (2008 ALCS Game 7, I’m talking to you), we pushed forward. At least that’s what I thought was going to happen. Then 2009 happened, kicked us in the face and other places where the sun doesn’t shine (thanks, Papelbon)  and put things into perspective. Things were changing and not going to be the same anymore. Suddenly my bouncing baby boy who brought home A plus pluses was a teenager. As a parent, I had to act. I started to get everyone around me excited and became more engrossed in the fact my kid was a teenager than who he was as a person. The Sox brass pushed the sellout streak on us, marketed the Red Sox on bricks, named a sports company after our beloved ball park, later supported one of Boston’s biggest enemies (LeBron James), became part owners of a racing company (Roush-Fenway Racing) and bought a soccer team (Liverpool) all under that same sports company’s rule, and somewhere along the lines became everything we as Red Sox fans once hated: the New York Yankees. We outspent our competitors to overpay big names that put casual butts in seats. Other teams sat back and chuckled and said “Good, let them have him” (see: Crawford, Carl and Lackey, John). I was pushing extracurricular activities on my kid that he didn’t even remotely enjoy or deem necessary, just to try to keep him from harm or trouble. He was getting bored, apathetic, and, worst of all, resentful. My son started missing classes and disrupting the ones he went to. The Red Sox were missing the playoffs in 2010 and sending letters from the owners saying “we know something is wrong, but it’s going to be okay”. Then September 2011 happened. The Ultimate Collapse. For the first time, and probably not the last, my son came home in a cop car. “He should face charges”, the officer said, “but we know you. You’ve raised him well. He’s a good kid. We’ll give him one more chance”. Had I raised him well though?

Being a fan of the Red Sox in 2012 is like being the proud parent of a kid with so much promise who suddenly, as a teenager, turned to drugs. Sure, all the kids do it. That’s how they try to mask it. But it’s really not any better. I feel like the parent who is disappointed in my child and doesn’t know what more to do. Then I realized something: The Red Sox were never my baby. They were Tito and Theo’s, are now Ben and Bobby’s, and still are Larry and John’s. It isn’t my fault, and never was. I just loved them so much I thought it was. I’m just a diehard fan who thought being a fan could change everything. An innocent bystander on the outside looking in.

In a way, they were destined for their delve into drugs. Their parents are doing the hard stuff and have passed it on to their kid. We’d overlooked the challenge, thought they’d be different, could change.

And they still can. But not yet.

Their parents tried to shake things up, thinking maybe sending away who they perceived to be a troublesome friend (Kevin Youkilis) would help. They tried for a change of scenery and to do something drastic to mix up their kid’s life (The Dodgers Trade). So far, no good. Now it’s time to send them away, let someone else more capable use a fresh start to mend the issues our child has and that pain our every waking moment as innocent fanatic bystanders. There’s still hope somewhere down the line, right?

We can only hope.

Some fresh faces are needed right about now and, fortunately, the Patriots, Celtics and (God-willing) Bruins are right around the corner.

To the Red Sox,

I love you. I have since the moment we met, and I always will. But right now, this routine is getting a bit boring. I need a hot, new cup of coffee and a crisp, new set of faces. Know my out is only temporary and I’ll be keeping a careful, loving, watchful eye while we’re apart. I’ll see you in February. Good luck.

The Dwightmare Begins

The Dwightmare is seemingly over now that Superman has landed in Lakerville, but this may be the worst best thing that has ever happened to basketball

And So It Begins

I love the game of basketball, more so than almost anything else in this world. If it were a religion, the court would be my own personal Mecca. It’s a place I feel at home, can forget about the world and work out my frustrations. It’s the first sport I ever played, my first love. The first season I played, I tripped over my own feet more times than I scored (which for those of you keeping score at home was 2 points the entire season). I remember that basket, the tears that I quickly tried to hide as seemingly everyone in the gym cheered for the poor, chubby kid who ran around like a chicken with his head cut off, and the opposing coach sticking his hand out for a high five. That summer I worked tirelessly on one specific shot – a dribbling left to right semi-hook shot that looked more like I was throwing a shot put than shooting a basketball – because it was the best way I could beat anyone. Late that following season, I hit that very shot to win a game in the playoffs. I practiced and practiced and practiced and when I was done, I practiced some more. I watched YouTube videos and every game or special I could get my hands on. I started growing and was fed the fact that all the doctors predicted I would be 6’4″. I never grew taller than 5’10”, where I stand today, but always felt like I was a monster on the court. I played the best game of my life in an 8th grade tournament when I and started with and played through a concussion and pneumonia, scoring 14 points and sinking two free throws (something I was particularly bad at back then) that iced the game. When I was fourteen, I boldly proclaimed that if I played Michael Jordan in his prime one-on-one, I would win. Even bolder? I  truly believed it.

I proceeded to get cut from my high school team and go to every possible Varsity game to support the team over the next four years. I went nuts with one of the craziest fan bases ever as a sophomore when we won the Massachusetts State Championship just months after one of the seniors on the team died in a tragic car accident. I was the Head Manager of the team the following season as a junior and relished in the opportunity to just help the team in any way I could. As a senior, I took charge and stood front row with my best friends, leading the nationally recognized crowd to become the Greatest High School Fan Section in America as once again we took home the State Title. I am first and foremost a lover of the game of basketball.

As a lover of the game, when I heard about Dwight Howard heading to the Lakers I practically started drooling. Another Super Team to challenge the likes of LeBron, Wade, Bosh and the Defending NBA Champion Miami Heat? A team already featuring the greatest player since Jordan in Kobe Bryant and second in league history with 16 NBA Championships? This couldn’t get much better. The Lakers made big moves earlier this offseason when they added 2-time MVP point guard Steve Nash, an up-tempo point guard the Lakers haven’t seen the likes of in over a decade, and wily veteran forward Antawn Jamison who provides a huge offensive and defensive punch off the bench. The Lakers, two years removed from going to 3 straight NBA Finals and winning the latter 2 of those, have looked old. Now, they pull off a trade in which they keep star power forward Pau Gasol, become much younger, can run with the  Miami Heat and defending Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder, can slow the game down in the half court with a phenomenal high post/low post duo of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard that neither Miami nor OKC can match, and have found the heir to the throne as King of Lakerland in Dwight Howard. As if that’s not enough, check out this stat, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info:

Watch out, NBA

To a fan of the game who just loves good competition, this can’t get any better. However, I’m not just a fan of the game. I’m a diehard Boston Celtics fan and, to put it simply, I’m pissed. As far as my eyes can see (and the further I look, the greener the tint gets) this could be the worst thing the league has ever seen.

The Problem

We’ll start with this texting exchange I had with a friend this morning in the aftermath of the Howard deal:

Her: “But seriously, F*** the Lakers”

Me: “Currently [hate/want to screw them over] more than the Yankees”

Her: “Agreed. But it’ll be okay, don’t worry”

Me: “If by ‘okay’ you mean Kevin Durant (my absolute favorite player) not winning a title for at least 3 more years, OKC probably semi-blowing up their team because of financial issue by then and Durant possibly NEVER winning a title, the Lakers pulling ANOTHER 3 peat, tying the Celtics for most NBA Championships EVER this year (17), passing us the year after, Kobe tying Michael [Jordan] with six rings and then passing him, Michael committing suicide at a young age after attempting another comeback in his 50s with the Bobcats and failing miserably (maybe a stretch, but still), then Kobe challenging Bill Russell for the most rings EVER when all is said and done, then yeah, everything will be okay and I have nothing to worry about.”

Her: “Oh my”

Houston, we have a problem. This isn’t just bad, this is Independence Day-esque bad, with no Will Smith in sight. As a Celtics fan, this is the epitome of all evils: The Lakers win, win again, and in the process of winning, trump you as the greatest franchise in NBA History. Think about that for a minute….This. CAN’T. HAPPEN!!! Dwight didn’t want to be there. He didn’t! And now, suddenly, he pushed for this trade to LA? Hold on…this smells fishy and oddly familiar to another recent event of my sports past:

In the winter following the 2003 Boston Red Sox’s devastating Grady-Left-Pedro-In-Too-Long Game 7 ALCS loss to the Yankees in which Aaron F@!$ing Boone hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the eleventh off poor Tim Wakefield, I found new levels of hate, the likes of which my almost-12-year-old self had never known. The Red Sox were in on the hunt for SS Alex Rodriguez when suddenly, Yankee 3B Aaron Boone, owner of 99% of all the hatred and heartbreak I had ever known, blew out his knee in a pickup basketball game, prompting the Yankees to go out and trade for Rodriguez, one of the best players in the game. The rich just got richer. Later that offseason, Larry Lucchino, Red Sox President and CEO, reiterated his feelings about the Yankees, once again calling them “The Evil Empire”.

What about this story reminds me of this whole D12 shebang? I hated Aaron Boone on two separate occasions: once for ruining the Red Sox World Series dreams, the next for getting hurt and luring the Yankees to go out and get A-Rod. Picture this 2012 Howard debacle as the Hollywood reboot, with the Lakers starring as the Yankees, Dwight Howard starring as Alex Rodriguez, and Dwight’s back starring as Aaron Boone. That’s right, I’m blaming his back. Howard’s back single-handedly elimanted the best chance of kicking the Miami Heat out of the playoffs before they faced the Celtics, scared me for 3 months leading up to the Olympics about how Team USA would respond without their starting center, and caused him to need surgery in which he was rehabbing at a facility in LA all summer which in turn (as Bill Simmons points out here), has most likely led to his realizing that being a superstar in Los Angeles playing for one of the most popular teams in the world alongside one of the most popular and best players in the world really couldn’t be all that bad. So the Lakers, realizing Howard would come to his senses, waited without panicking and slowly managed to go from a trade that would have forced them to absorb a bad contract (Hedo Turkoglu’s), trade their All Star Center (Andrew Bynun), trade their perennial All Star power foward (Pau Gasol) and trade multiple draft picks, to simply trading Bynum and one future, first-round, lottery-protected draft pick. I can just picture Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Owner Jerry Buss sitting in a lavish room on the phone with Rob Hennigan, new General Manager of the Orlando Magic, force choking him, and saying something malicious like “I have you now!” while they steal another All-Time NBA Great to be. The Lakers are the basketball equivalent of The Evil Empire, only much, much smarter. Making matters worse? Hennigan is from Worcester. A Massachusetts native. The guy is a CELTICS fan!  Dear God, I’m pissed.

The Solution

Sam Presti, GM of the Oklahoma City Thunder, is one of the smartest men in basketball. He drafts well, trades well, takes low risk-high reward moves and almost always seems to end up with a win-win situation. He is also the man who pulled the trigger on the trade that landed Kendrick Perkins in blue and orange, much to the horrific dismay of every Celtic fan worldwide. Sam Presti is not a dumb man, but in the wake of the Thunder’s NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat this past June, some people are questioning whether or not the Perkins trade was one of his best. Perkins has battled injuries the last few years, some believe his skills are declining and, this combined with his salary (owed $25M over the next 3 seasons), has many people in OKC’s circles crying “uncle” on Perk’s contract. Personally, I think Scott Brooks coached terribly the past two playoffs and didn’t utilize what he had in Perkins. To be fair, Kendrick doesn’t exactly fit into the run-and-gun, high-octane offense of the Thunder. But to be more fair, the Miami Heat are the best in the business at doing just that, have the greatest player on Earth, and simply beat the Thunder at their own game. Still, many think the money could be better spent elsewhere. Bleacher Report had this to say about the situation:

“Here’s the catch, though: Oklahoma City may be forced to amnesty Perkins this offseason.

Why?

Well, think about it. The Thunder have to make commitments to James Harden and Serge Ibaka for the future, and they have already signed Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to lucrative long-term deals.

It’s going to be extremely difficult for Oklahoma City to lock up one of Harden and Ibaka, and then when you throw Perkins’ contract into the mix? It just makes for a very messy situation for GM Sam Presti, and his hand may be forced here when it comes to Perkins.”

Sam Presti is not a dumb man, but if he thinks he can improve his team by using the Amnesty Clause on Perkins’ contract and spending that money elsewhere, he will. Suddenly, in a world where I never thought I’d see the Big Mean Green Machine back in a C’s uniform ever again, I have a vision. It’s Kendrick’s cell phone buzzing. He just received a text from his best friend, Celtic’s point guard Rajon Rondo. It’s a picture message, with the following words underneath:

“You’re gonna like the way you look…”

Then Kendrick’s phone rings. He answers and hears Kevin Garnett on the other line.

“I guarantee it”, says Garnett, and then hangs up.

And BAM! Just like that Perk comes frolicking through meadows and receives a police escort back to the Garden where his old teammates are waiting with open arms for the press conference re-introducing Perk as a Celtic. Yes, I’m telling you Kendrick Perkins is the key to solving every single aforementioned NBA crisis. Don’t believe me?

Let’s just put it this way: if Dwight Howard were Jesus, Perkins would be the anti-Christ. However, now that Howard is a Laker, I see him as more of a demon. Therefore, Kendrick Perkins qualifies as John Constantine, a demon hunter whose sole purpose on Earth is to send demons back to the nether regions. Kendrick Perkins is the Chosen One.

…wait. Did I really just compare Kendrick Perkins to Keanu Reeves?

(::Gets on knees, begins reciting Act of Contrition:: “Bless me Father for I have sinned…”)

Actually, yes I did, and it makes sense. The Matrix (starring Keanu Reeves) was awesome and Constantine (also starring Keanu Reeves) was an entertaining thriller (it got 3.5 out of 5 stars!), then all of a sudden Keanu disappeared and now no one likes him or thinks he is worth anything. Sound familiar? Keep in mind that at the time of Perkins’ trade from the Celtics, he was widely considered the second best center in the league (next in line only to Howard), despite his offensive deficiencies and coming off a torn ACL in his knee. He was also one of the defensive anchors of the Celtics’ record setting defenses. Still not buying it? Please refer to the following:

  • Games 6 and 7, 2010 NBA Finals. Perkins blows out knee with Celtics up 3-2, Lakers win Title.
  • February 2011, Celtics finally healthy are on their way to another championship,get Perkins back from injury. Perkins gets traded, Celtics lose in 2nd Round to Miami Heat.
  • Games 6 and 7, 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. Celtics up 3-2. Big man Chris Bosh returns to Miami lineup, moving Garnett outside the paint allowing LeBron to have one of the single greatest playoff games ever in game 6, Celtics lose in 7.

By my count, that’s THREE banners that are not hanging from the rafters in Boston. Three banners we would have had with Kendrick Perkins in the lineup. If Kendrick Perkins comes back to Boston with this already retooled lineup, we’ll be seeing a Celtics-Lakers Finals for a few years to come. The Celtics will almost certainly win at least once more if they get Perk back. Besides, if the Lakers want to win and pass the Celtics in Championships, shouldn’t they have to go through us to do so? Now that would be entertaining basketball.

The irony in all of this? Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins in the first place because he firmly believed he could convince Dwight Howard to come to Boston. Now, he’s in Los Angeles.

God, I hate the Lakers.