This season, David Ortiz has gone from Papi the Powerful to simply, “Papi stinks.” He has hit just one home run in 178 at-bats, a stifling number considering Ortiz had averaged 39 home runs in his first six seasons in Boston. Early in the season, Ortiz, along with Red Sox manager Terry Francona, had insisted that he was simply going through a slump and that he would eventually return to form. When his struggles continued in mid-May, Francona benched the slugger for three games so that he could take a breath and recollect his thoughts before returning to baseball. Then, on May 20, in the second game following his benching, Ortiz finally hit his first home run, a deep shot over the Fenway center field wall. Papi got a standing ovation from fans and everything seemed to be back to ordinary as New England fans cheered on their hero while sipping a steamy cup of chowder. Oh, how Papi spoiled Sox fans with that one home run. Since May 20, Papi has 4 hits in 40 at bats and now sits sixth in the Red Sox order behind Mike Lowell. If you watch any ESPN, you probably know everything that I just told you. I know that. Instead, my mission is to show you the repercussions that Papi’s demise will have on the “Red Sox Nation.”
OK, let’s be real. Each and every night when checking the day’s MLB box scores, I go straight to the Red Sox game. I don’t do this because I’m a fan of the Sox. I don’t do it because I dislike David Ortiz and enjoy seeing him go 0-4 with three strikeouts on a nightly basis. No, I do it because I hope that if Papi fails, the absurd amount of individuals constituting the Red Sox Nation will begin to dwindle.
Since around 2002, this country has seen an insurgence of what I like to call “Assumed” Red Sox fans. Every time I go to the grocery store (or anywhere, for that matter) I see an astounding number of people wearing Red Sox caps. Upon witnessing this, I ask myself “Why did this wave of supposed Sox fans hit America?” After asking myself that question countless times, I finally decided to formulate a theory. The theory is called the ‘Assumed Red Sox Fan Theory.’ The theory claims, with undeniable evidence, that if a person comes from a place that does not have a professional baseball team, or from a family that has no ties to a professional baseball team, then there is greater than a 50% chance that that person will select the Red Sox as their team of choice. These confused fans walk around in a state of denial, wearing shirts that say “I Believe” along with dirty, unfitted, classic fit Red Sox caps on their blue-collar minded heads. Oftentimes, these fans rub their hats in their backyard garden to simulate, through top-soil stained filth, that they have been fans since 1918.
There are two types of “Assumed Red Sox Fans”. For purposes of keeping things simple, we will just call them Type 1 and Type 2 fans. Type 1 fans assume the role of the underdog and act as if their beloved Red Sox will finally get over the hump and win their first World Series in ninety years. What these fans don’t realize, however, is that Boston has won two championships since 2004. They are not the David to the New York Yankees’ Goliath. In fact, Boston has the fourth highest payroll in baseball and has been much more successful in the past five years than the Bronx Bombers. So please, stop acting like your team is the world’s greatest underdog.
For the fans that are competent enough to realize that Boston has won two championships in the last five years, the burden they carry is equally inexcusable. These fans, called Type 2, act as if they have been a part of Boston’s suffering since 1918. They roamed around the streets of Vegas, Memphis, Salt Lake City and the like, screaming and shedding tears of joy after the Sox won in 2004. They identified themselves with Bill Simmons, who wrote Now I Can Die in Peace, after Boston won their first title in 86 years. For me, there is nothing more annoying then when fans hop on the bandwagon of a prestigious team, like the Red Sox, and act as if they laid their handprint on the team’s history. Type 2 fans act as if they have been going to McGreevy’s bar for years, just relinquishing the idea that Boston would ever win a title because of all the pain the team had caused them spurred by moments such as Buckner’s error in 1986 or Aaron Boone’s infamous home run. I do not mean to dismiss any of the pain and suffering that legitimate Red Sox fans went through for nine decades. I am just agitated by the fact that so many of these “assumed” Red Sox fans act as if they have been through 90 years of Hell and feel like they have the right to celebrate like other members of the Nation, who actually had gone through the 86 year reign of terror.
In order to finish this article in full circle, I need to mention David Ortiz’s role in all of this. If you go up to any Type 1 fan wearing a Boston hat and ask them to name three members of the Red Sox, they will most likely only be able to name two players. They will list Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Well, as we all know, Manny Ramirez is no longer a part of the Red Sox and has taken his dreadlocks and syringes to Los Angeles. Strike 1! If David Ortiz, who obviously seems linked to previous steroid use because of his relationship to Manny Ramirez and his inability to hit the ball out of the infield, continues to struggle, then it is possible that Theo Epstein will elect to trade Boston’s admired slugger. That could leave “assumed” Red Sox fans with another misidentified player. Strike 2! Finally, many fans will not even have the knowledge to name a third player, leading to Strike 3! Go ahead, try it out at home whenever you come across a Red Sox fan. Odds are, you will be able to punch out a Red Sox fan like Phil Cuzzi on a called third strike.
David Ortiz is an extremely lovable guy. Legitimate Red Sox fans love him for his charisma, humor and clutch hitting. In no way am I hoping that Big Papi struggles because I have a personal vendetta against him. If Ortiz was playing for any other team I would cheer heavily for him to succeed. However, he does not play for the Orioles or the Angels or the Braves. He plays for the newest evil empire, one so vast it has mock fans all over the country. If Ortiz continues to hit like he did back in Minnesota before he became an icon, then the Red Sox Nation will begin to crumble in towns outside of New England. That is my hope. I dream of a day when all fans have a legitimate reason to root for a team and do not become fans just because of films like Fever Pitch. Believe me, if Papi’s woes continue, this day will eventually come. As Charles Barkeley says, “I may be wrong, but I doubt it.”