Daniel W. Drezner

I’m rooting for you, Philly fans

Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer does not like Red Sox fans:  I see people. I see annoying people. I see annoying people wearing blue hats with a red B on the front. And they’re . . . they’re . . . everywhere! Yes, it is the seemingly annual invasion of the denizens of Red ...

Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer does not like Red Sox fans

I see people. I see annoying people. I see annoying people wearing blue hats with a red B on the front. And they’re . . . they’re . . . everywhere! Yes, it is the seemingly annual invasion of the denizens of Red Sox Nation. (Motto: In Us We Irritate.) It is a nation whose currency is based on being cloying, self-important, pompous, overly loud and, regrettably, ever-present, and the economy is great. Axis of Evil? You make your list of nations that belong and I’ll make mine…. The Red Sox, thanks largely to their streak-breaking championship in 2004, became cuddly, cute, popular, and attractive to great scads of casual fans who wanted to glom onto the gravy train. There’s nothing cuddly or cute about a team with a $133 million payroll. You can’t be an underdog if you spend like the Kennedys. If the Red Sox – who struggled to draw one million fans under the penurious final seasons of Yawkey family ownership – were once a cold-water walk-up on Kenmore Square, they are now a gated compound on the Cape.

As a longtime Sox fan, I can kind of understand where Ford is coming from.  The Red Sox clearly aren’t underdogs anymore — and, with continued good management, never will be.  On the other hand, Ford kind of contradicts himself at the end of his column: 

Earlier this year, Hank Steinbrenner, part-owner of the Yankees and son of legendary windbag George Steinbrenner, said he doesn’t believe in Red Sox Nation. “Go anywhere in America and you won’t see Red Sox hats and jackets, you’ll see Yankee hats and jackets,” Steinbrenner said. “This is a Yankee country.” At the moment, judging by the national deficit and some unfortunate policy missteps, this actually seems to be a Kansas City Royals kind of country. But we’ll leave that debate for another time and focus instead on this question for Mr. Steinbrenner: What in the world are you talking about? There are Yankees hats out there, certainly. I see them in plaid and argyle and all black, and worn sideways with no bend to the brim. Those are prevalent, and I honestly don’t know what they are, but they are not baseball hats. Everywhere else are the blue hats with the red B on the front. Those are stained and weathered, and the brims are curved to keep out the sun. The people who wear them have a big team that pretends to be little, a team that won a championship in 2004 and then another last season. They are very happy with themselves.

It seems to me you can’t begrudge a fan base that was loyal through the seventy lean years and is now reaping the seven fat years.  Hat tip to David Pinto, who makes an interesting point

Red Sox Nation, however, is a truly remarkable phenomenon. Boston combined first rate marketing with deft team building to take Boston from a locally loved team to a national brand. Both on the business and baseball side, the management group should be admired for that, and other teams should try to emulate that success. Ford’s team, the Phillies, have a chance to build that kind of brand right now. Maybe create the HURH club, for Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Hamels. Instead of complaining, try beating them at their own game.

The problem is, the Phillies play in Philadelphia, the city with the meanest sports fans in the country.  My father can tell war stories about how, as an ER doc, he’d see the hospital overflow with people following any sports event.  I’ve seen Philly fans up close — hell, they’d begrudge Gandhi for life if the guy booted a grounder.  If the Red Sox don’t win it this year, I’ll be pulling for the Phillies, however, just to see how Philly fans deal with success.  Five years of sports success in Boston has gone a long way towards eliminating the sourness that pervades the Philly sports scene. 

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