As a sports fan, I usually love the month of April.Between the NHL and NBA playoffs starting, the NFL schedule being released and baseball season starting, it’s a unique crossroads of the major sports.
But this April is a little different.
See, I’m from Massachusetts. We’re accustomed to winning – in every sport. We’re passionate about our teams, with zero tolerance for losing.
Seven major sports championships in 11 years will do that to a fan base.
The Celtics and Bruins are holding up their end this year. The suddenly-ageless C’s have overcome a slow start to become one of the hottest teams in the NBA over the last month, while the Bruins currently are the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and lead Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals 2-1 – as we go to print – in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In other words, business as usual.
But it’s the team on the other side of Boston, at Fenway Park, that’s making me queasy.
The Red Sox are bad this year.
Not bad like Kansas City or Pittsburgh, 100-loss bad. But they’re going to be much worse than their $150-plus million payroll dictates they should be, and much worse than a team from such a big market should be.
In other words, they’re going to be the Mets.
I didn’t want to believe it. Not when they hired the Amazins former manager Bobby Valentine. Not when it became clear that Valentine couldn’t go more than five minutes without saying something headline-worthy (and not in a good way). Not when they got rid of not one, but two of their potential starting shortsops, leaving Mike Aviles (who would have trouble fielding some of the grounders in my intramural softball league) to man the same area that Nomar Garciaparra used to. Not when they let bombastic-but-effective closer Jonathan Papelbon walk away as a free agent and then moved his obvious replacement Daniel Bard to the starting rotation.
All of those things I could overlook – until Jacoby went down.
For those that don’t know, Jacoby Ellsbury is the Sox’ starting center fielder who should have been the American League MVP in 2011. He hit something like .437 with 56 home runs and 215 RBI (don’t fact-check me on that; it’s right) last season while winning a Gold Glove for his slick fielding. He’s a five-tool player that will command close to a billion dollars, (according to “sources” in the Torch office) when his contract is up at the end of the season.
Last week, after Ellsbury slid into second base to break up a double play, Tampa Bay shortstop Reid Brignac landed on him. He suffered a sublexation of his right shoulder. No, I’ve never heard of that before either.
Regardless, he’s now on the disabled list, for six weeks or more.
And then he’s going to leave at the end of the season.
He has become the Red Sox’ Jose Reyes.
And the Red Sox have become Boston’s Mets.
To all the Mets fans – and I know (well, I think) you’re out there – I’m sorry. I know that I’ve ridiculed your ownership, your general manager, your manager, your players, Jason Bay (he can’t be considered a player anymore, can he?), your fellow fans, your 2007 collapse, and your seemingly perennial status as bit players in the National League pennant race.
Now, I’m in the same boat. The Red Sox are destined to go something like 83-79, miss the playoffs and cause me endless frustration. I’m going to have steadily more space around me every time I go to Fenway this year, and I’m going to want to throw my remote through the wall every time Alfredo Aceves blows a save.
This is not supposed to happen in April. I’m not supposed to lose faith before the first series with the Yankees. But living in Queens has changed me. I’ve watched you, all six Mets fans I know, go into every season with the same jaded view that I’m taking this year, and emerge from the end of the season with pride intact, heads held high, eager to watch the Jets implode.
I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I can avoid being a fair-weather fan. And I only have to go through one year of this – hopefully
I’ve ridiculed you in the past, Mets fans. Now, I admire you. You are truly an inspiration to supporters of medicore pro sports teams everywhere.