The Boston Red Sox are one of the best teams in baseball and have been for the entire 2021 season. As of this article, they’re tied with the White Sox and Dodgers as the third best team in the MLB and sit behind only the Houston
Cheaters Astros still tied with Chicago for second in the American League. But if you were to randomly pick 20 people walking the streets of Boston, odds are the majority wouldn’t even be able to tell you who their team is playing that night. So basically, the Boston Red Sox are forgotten about.
And I don’t say that as an insult to my fellow Bostonians or to lessen the success of the Sox this year. I say it to shed some unfortunate light on the fact that, in the city of Boston, the Red Sox aren’t getting the shine they deserve. Out of the “Big 4” sports, they’re sitting behind the Celtics, Bruins and Patriots in popularity. While there’s no scientific way to prove it, if you’ve been to New England recently, you can tell the buzz just isn’t there for the Sox anymore.
You’ll always have the diehard’s that’ll follow the team no matter what, but I’m talking about everyone else. Because let’s face it, baseball as a whole is losing fans left and right. The popularity of the sport has been dwindling for quite some time. Even one of the most prestigious teams in the league isn’t immune to this. Boston fans have always vigorously supported their teams, but there just seems to be a lack of excitement with the Sox this season.
Why is that? Well, partly because of the sport itself, but it’s more than that. Gaining the attention of New England sports fans is tough right now. Let me explain.
The Patriots Problem:
You can’t start anywhere other than with the team whose dominated the NFL for the last 20 years. The Patriots will have a chokehold on this region until Bill Belichick retires. And even then it’s not a definite that they’ll fall out of the top spot in town. Whether they’re doing good, bad or not playing at all, they almost always dominate the headlines with every move they make.
The Patriots were…umm…how can I put this nicely…as disappointing a team we’ve ever seen under Belichick last season, and yet they’re still all anyone can talk about. And the headlines didn’t stop once the season ended. Cam Newton miraculously signed another deal. Bill Belichick went on an unprecedented spending spree that revamped this entire team in one weeks time. The Prince That Was Promised, Mac Jones, is now in the fold. Ernie Adams and his “Pink Stripes” have officially left the building. And those are just some of the storylines we’ve gotten so far!
The Patriots are the kings of New England and there’s no way the Red Sox are beating them out.
Bears, Bergeron, Boston Bruins:
But how about the Bruins? I’ve always said Boston, at its core, is a hockey town and 2021 proved that. The groundswell of support around the B’s this season was palpable. It was the perfect storm of an aging, beloved core of players with a closing championship window, a 2020 season that ended with unfinished business and a team that was just really, really good and fun to watch. There was a different feeling in the air when Bergeron put on the C and began marching the Bruins to what seemed like an overdue Cup run. But a surprising Game 6 loss to the New York Islanders left the fans wanting more and that feeling of unfinished business grew. It doesn’t matter how good the Sox are, they’re not reaching the same fever pitch the Bruins are hitting.
The C’s and The Jay’s are the Final Reason why the Boston Red Sox are Forgotten About:
Then there’s the Celtics. Boston’s perpetual fun, underachieving team. Jason Tatum is a budding superstar and Jaylen Brown isn’t far behind him. That excitement alone is enough to keep the Celtics on the forefront of everyone’s minds. Normally a great Sox team could overcome that. But ever since the season ended, it’s been a nonstop roller coaster for the C’s. Danny Ainge steps down. Brad Stevens takes his spot. Kemba Walker gets traded. Then, they hire Ime Udoka from the Nets. Regular season baseball just doesn’t have the traction to beat out those headlines.
And that leads me back to the sport itself. Baseball is becoming an olds man game. Young people aren’t flocking to their televisions to watch their team play a 3 game series against a division rival anymore. Instead, they catch the highlights on Twitter or tune in only if something crazy happens. And when all you have is your loyal fan base watching the games without bringing in new eyes, that’s a recipe for a popularity freefall.
But the Red Sox haven’t helped themselves either. In last years COVID-stricken 60 game season, the Sox had a putrid 24-36 record and sat in the basement of the AL East. Chris Sale missed the season with Tommy John surgery which led to the teams bloated 5.58 ERA which was the third worst in the league. The pitching staff also gave up the most hits, home runs and walks in the Major’s. And the straw that broke the camels back was when the organization shipped out their most liked, most talented former MVP, Mookie Betts. It’s easy to see why fans aren’t chomping at the bit to jump back on the Red Sox bandwagon.
So not only do the Red Sox have to deal with the fact that their sport is steadily losing popularity as a whole, they also have to compete for attention with teams in their own backyard. It doesn’t matter how many homer’s JD Martinez hits, how great Xander Bogaerts plays or if Chris Sale comes back as a Cy Young candidate. The Red Sox have been pushed to Boston’s basement and there’s no clear way out.
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-Mike Sullivan (@msully5433)
(Featured photo credit: boston.cbslocal.com)