So I've had a couple people recently tell me that they hate Red Sox fans, because we're obnoxious and self absorbed and generally awful people, and that me liking the team somehow made them like me a little less. First of all, I'd just like to say I hope they're kidding, because come on people, it's a sports team, and secondly, kindly take your sports team discrimination elsewhere.
My dad is technically a former Mets fan, but his dad was a huge fan of the Red Sox, and after my dad's favorite player was traded, he dropped the Mets and went to the Sox, and there was no looking back. Allegedly, if I had been a boy, I would have been named Wade after Wade Boggs (so thank god I'm a girl, considering he was traded to the Yankees less than two years after I was born), and apparently during the first Red Sox vs. Yankees game I ever saw as an living, breathing person on this earth, I started sobbing when the Yankees ran out onto the field. Two things have been taught to me since I was very small by my father: pursue what makes you happy and do your best at it, and the axis of evil in the modern world is Harvard University and the New York Yankees. I'm more likely to tell you I'm a Red Sox fan before I mention I was raised Catholic, that's how engrained this stuff is in me.
I grew up in Connecticut, and spent the first five years of my life living in a suburb of New Haven before moving to a much smaller, borderline rural community. We're closer to New York than Boston, and unfortunately, this meant that out of everyone in my elementary school, I was the literal only Red Sox fan. It just wasn't cool to like the team that hadn't won a World Series since 1918, and kids being kids, this meant that everyone rooted for the Yankees, just like everyone rooted for the Chicago Bulls despite none of us actually being from Chicago. September through October was always the worst time of the year for me, let alone any day where we were supposed to wear a sport's team jersey or hat to school to show "school spirit", because I was always singled out, targeted and ridiculed for not supporting the popular team, usually pretty viciously, because kids are cruel to those who don't just bow their heads and take it. People said the only reason I supported the Red Sox was because my parents were too poor to afford World Series tickets, or because I was somehow mentally disabled or just generally pathetic because Gwen, didn't you hear, they haven't won a World Series since 1918.
To put it bluntly: it sucked.
And, somewhat unfortunately, I've never been someone (for better or worse) to just put my head down and not draw attention to myself when I don't agree with the majority. In 1998, when I was in second grade, during out morning venn diagram session, I was literally the only person out of a class of forty or fifty kids to say I wanted the Padres to beat the Yankees. The only kid. Out of a class of forty or fifty kids.
Needless to say, I was teased and generally made to feel like crap about myself because I didn't give in and erase my name and at least put it in the "I wish they both could win" category.
I had the unusual (mis)fortune of having a childhood rival. He literally was the Gary to my Ash, in that we basically disagreed on everything, he always initiated it by being a legitimate jerk, and constantly tried to one up each other. I wish I was making this up. He liked math, I liked reading and writing, and we envied the other person's ability in the other subject. He even had a blue backpack every year while I had a red one.
So, needless to say, he was a Yankees fan, and a particularly outspoken, obnoxious one at that. And, of course, his favorite player was Derek Jeter, and mine was Nomar Garciaparra. He loved Jeter so much that for a while, that's how he would sign his names on school papers, with his real first name written next to it in parentheses in case our teachers weren't sure who the paper actually belonged to. And we'd fight every fall about who was going to make it to the series, and every fall, he'd laugh in my face when it came down to the Red Sox and the Yankees, the Red Sox would blow it and the Yankees would move on. We'd argue about statistics, and I remember one amazing, smug moment when he tried to tell me that Jeter was doing better in the season than Nomar was, and I pointed out that he was dead wrong and had the numbers to back it up.
But it wasn't really just him, or other kids at school. It seemed like anyone under the age of twenty heard I was a Red Sox fan, and took that as a license to mock me. It got a little better in middle school, when I was in class with two other Red Sox fans, but we were still outnumbered and treated like dirt for it.
2004 looked like it was going to be a bad year. I'd already basically given up hope on the team after they traded Nomar, because like every kid who gets attached to a player, it just feels like a massive betrayal when that player's time with the team you root for is over. I resented Orlando Cabrera probably more than was fair, and almost immediately stopped paying much attention to how they were doing until they made the playoffs. And once again, it looked like the Yankees were World Series bound, and I was going to be in for hell in school the next day when they swept the Red Sox and movies on to the Series.
But then the Red Sox won. And they won the next game. And the next one. My dad was actually on a business trip in Australia for game seven, and we ended up buying a TiVo for the sole purpose of making sure he'd be able to watch the game if he couldn't find it in Sydney. Three of his coworkers came over to watch the game with my mom, sister, brother and I, and it was one of the most nerve-wracking, exciting nights of my entire life. I'm pretty sure I cried when they won, because the Red Sox were finally, finally going to the World Series, and it felt like I'd won something then, too, because finally, I could point to something and say see, look, my team isn't a complete and utter failure, and don't you feel silly for saying that they were?
Them winning the Series almost didn't matter after that. It was exciting, but nothing compared to seeing them beat the Yankees after such a close call. I sort of stopped following the team after that, because I'm nothing if not loyal and prone to grudges, and it did really depress me that they'd managed to win so soon after they'd traded Nomar. As other members of the 2004 team started getting traded or retiring, my interest in following the team's exploits as faithfully as I once had gradually dwindled, and so now I'm more a fan who'll watch a game if it's on TV and likes heading over to Fenway for at least one game a year, rather than one who can recite batting averages to you at the drop of a hat. I still have a lot of Red Sox pride though, and still definitely consider them to be my team.
So yeah, I'm a Red Sox fan. I'm genuinely sorry that some people find us obnoxious, and thus feel the need to categorize all of us as terrible people, but you know what? I still think that's absurd. I was literally treated like crap for the first thirteen years of my life by obnoxious Yankee fans because I wouldn't let them talk smack about the team I rooted for, and I wouldn't be embarrassed into not wearing my Nomar jersey to school on spirit days. Being told that I'm somehow an awful person, or that any of us are, for being passionate about a sports team sort of just feels like we're not allowed to win, here. We're either stupid because we care about a team that can't win, or we're awful people for being proud that we did win two World Series titles, and that just doesn't seem fair to me. I'm certainly not saying that there aren't any obnoxious Red Sox fans, because I know there are, but it's really not fair to the rest of us who spent so much of our lives (and really, I have nothing to complain about compared to people like my dad, or my grandfather, or fans who never got to see them win a Series) being put down because we cared about a sports team that went through one hell of a rough patch.
I just wish people would think more about how they treat others when it comes to what team they root for. I've met plenty of nice, hardcore Yankees fans, and a bunch of obnoxious Red Sox fans, and plenty of people who support neither. But it still sucks to hear someone say that they think less of me because I'm probably just riding a bandwagon, or that I'm "one of those fans", or that anyone so much as wearing a Red Sox hat is "one of those fans". I just want to be able to support my team without people telling me I'm somehow less than human for doing so, and I really don't think that's too much to ask.
(Also, chanting 1918 isn't even relevant anymore, it's time to let it go.)