The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
1. New England: Boston's teams are New England's teams. With a fallout zone that reaches from the Canadian borders of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to hazier western and southern borders that mingle with the outer reaches of Yankees territory, you're hard pressed to find a more geographically diverse (and dispersed) fan base. People in New Hampshire are very different from people in Maine. (Just read the bumper stickers on their trucks.) People in Massachusetts are very different from people in Rhode Island. (Just ask their therapist and bookie, respectively.) Yet despite all the differences, there is one uniting thread: Everybody roots for the Red Sox.
2. Being In The Same Division As New York and Tampa Bay (And Possibly Toronto): Hey guys, did you hear? The AL East is going to be tough this season. Sure, the Yankees rivalry is extra special with sprinkles and a cherry, but if you're not the sentimental type Boston vs. Tampa has just as many teeth. From bouncing the Sox out of the playoffs in 2008 to nosing them out for last year's wild card, the scales have tipped in the Rays' favor in recent years. And Toronto could be good this year too as any of the 23.8 million bloggers that cover the team will be glad to tell you.
Sure, there's probably something to be said for being in a division like the NL East where the Phillies could win with seven guys on the field, but I'll take the excitement of THE MOST COMPETITIVE DIVISION IN THE WORLD (of American baseball).
3. Being In The Same Division As Baltimore: Come on, everyone needs a little down time. I think Bill Veeck would have approved of the Dan Duquette hire.
4. Bobby Valentine: Hey, I liked Tito. He snuck two world titles in under that hairless dome when fans had come to believe it was never really an option. But sometimes relationships get ill and things fall apart. Though nary a game has been played, I for one have enjoyed jumping into the ice bath of Bobby Valentine after Tito's decade long sauna.
I don't like him for the reasons that dunderheaded hack Dan Shaugnessy does. Switching out the fungo bat only turns on people who want to sound like superior traditionalists. I don't like him for any specific reasons other than he's entertaining and he's new here. You can stick your Tony La Russas of the world in a vegan sausage casing. I'm less concerned with and convinced of manager efficacy than I am with a guy that says "Just because God delays does not mean that God denies" with a huge smirk on his face when he's talking about assigning dudes to the minors. That rules. I didn't like him before he got to Boston and I can already see myself heading to his office with a torch in a couple years. But for now, I'm digging it.
5. Tim Britton & Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal: Referencing reason No. 1, Sox fans don't just spread out over six states, newspaper coverage of the team does too. The lion's share of Sox fans turn to The Boston Globe or, even worse, the Herald for their coverage. Forty minutes down the road in Providence, Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson are doing great work, and I emphasize that last word. They use and understand advanced metrics, they dig for stories and they often challenge the traditional narrative that the Globe just parrots down from Mt. Fenway (Bob Hohler hatchet jobs aside). Do yourself a favor and read them this season.
6. Jerry Remy & Don Orsillo: I find two things to be true when it comes to sports on TV. Everyone hates the national announcers, and everyone loves their local guys. I'm no different. Though I'm no longer in Boston, the magic of MLB.tv still brings Don & Jerry onto my coffee table most evenings. Their laughing fits and general irreverence may rub some people the wrong way, but if you share their sense of humor there's nothing better than smiling along while a warm breeze drifts in and creates condensation on your can of High Life. I'm already watching the game. What do they need to tell me that I can't see? Bring on the the jokes and Jerry's smoker's cough!
When Jerry missed most of the 2009 season with illness even the parade of awesome and unlikely fill-ins couldn't bring that same magic. Except the night Dwight Evans was there. SWOON. (Don't tell me you haven't seen the pizza video!)
7. Sports Bars: No, not drinking establishments outside the park with jumbo TVs and $9 pints of Harpoon. Those generally suck around Fenway, but I'll get to that in a second. I'm talking about the chocolate/vanilla ice cream bar with the chocolate shell manufactured by the good people at Hood and sold by aisle walking MIRACLE WORKERS all around the park. They're simple. They're delicious. They've been there for like 30 years and I think I've had at least one for the past 25. How come it used to take Dice-K 50 pitches to get through an inning but Joey from Everett could peg me in the hands with a Sports Bar from 12 rows down? MIRACLE WORKERS.
8. The numerous lacking amenities of Fenway Park: No fancy food, small seats, no parking, obstructing architecture, lame surrounding neighborhood, expensive tickets ... how the hell is this place celebrating its 100th year in operation? Because quite simply it's the most baseball-y place you'll ever set foot in (it's got miles on Wrigley or Turner Field: Bronx Edition). You don't need them. Just go and see. Ask the home plate guys.
There are as many opinions about the Henry/Warner/Lucchino menage a trois as there are Sox fans, but it's indisputable that they saved the mystique of the franchise when they saved that weirdo old park. They are one in the same.
9. The Jimmy Fund: The Jimmy Fund is a pediatric cancer research charity based in Boston and founded in 1948. The Red Sox have been affiliated with the charity since 1953 and I can't think of a team and a cause that are more closely connected in all of American sports. The billboard in right field is as visible as the retired numbers or any beer ad, and the annual telethon crosses all Red Sox media platforms. It is a good, good thing to feel a part of.
10. 2012: This team won 90 games last year. That's real good and they're going to win more this year. Idiot John Lackey is starting zero games because he's the first player ever to have Tommy Karma surgery. Jacoby Ellsbury is rad. Jon Lester is going to win the Cy Young. We're all gonna pretend this is Carl Crawford's first year with the team (as soon as he gets back). The weather's going to be awesome and we were born in New England.
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What are your favorite things about being a Red Sox fan?
Previous "10 Best Things": Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants,Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies