Hadfield: For Red Sox and their fans, it’s about actual baseball again

Forget the other garbage, it's about baseball again at Fenway Park. (Getty Images)
Forget the other garbage, it’s about baseball again at Fenway Park. (Getty Images)

The phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” is a conversational maxim we’ve all heard at one time or another. In most circumstances, it’s true. That is, until a tipping point is reached. Then, rather suddenly, the platitude’s veracity turns wrong. Very wrong.

 

A change in conversation

Through eight games, the Boston Red Sox have posted a record of 5-3. Not great, certainly not bad, but the start has spurned exactly what the organization so desperately wanted: relief. They needed this. I mean, they really needed this. The conversation had to be changed. And fast.

But before we peer forward to the land of possibility, it’s only appropriate we look back. Frankly, I don’t know how we got here.

We went from waxing poetic about alleged shots of Jack Daniels taken before the 2004 World Series to storming Yawkey Way, with pitchforks in hand, complaining about beer in the clubhouse during the September collapse of 2011. The vibrant romanticism of “Cowboy Up!” turned into to the pure shame of the Bobby Valentine era. And members of the media helped promote the idea that somehow rooting against the Red Sox – more particularly the ownership group – earned you a seat at the cool kids lunch table.

Whatever the case may be, a real paradigm shift in the conversation occurred, and the dialect had very little to do with what was going on inside the diamond. To its detriment, the ownership group did nothing to impede this downfall. But it’s not about them or the ancillary crap, like reports of signing players based off their marketability, not potential production; “Sweet Caroline” and the infamous sellout streak that never really was a sellout streak (which, thank God, mercifully came to an end Wednesday night); the commemorative Fenway 100 bricks; and the despicable manner in which former manager Terry Francona was thrown under the bus following his resignation. None of that garbage is of import. Not after 5-3. Not today, anyway.

In sports, the line of demarcation between “good” bad publicity and “bad” bad publicity is directly correlated to on-field production. It’s a three year process.

• Year One, questions like “what happened?” are uttered by fan bases.

• In Year Two, most everyone begins to get testy, bemoaning some version of “Alright, guys – let’s pick it up.” There’s still interest, but bandwagon fans turn their attention to other distractions, leaving the diehards to ponder their own allegiance to the team.

• And if things aren’t remedied by Year Three (Jets fans call this year “The Tebow Experience”), every owner’s worst fear comes to life: crickets. Bad publicity turns into indifference, and the public conversation about the team stops.

For the Red Sox, Year Three was upon us. I’d argue Jon Lester’s performance in Yankees Stadium on Opening Day (5 IP, 5 hits, 7 strikeouts, 2 runs allowed) was the most important in-game moment since the 2011 loss in Baltimore that prevented Boston from earning a postseason berth. That’s not hyperbole, that’s truth.

 

Forget the garbage

Let’s go back to the bad publicity ordeal: entertainment is a weird business. Entertainers need an audience more than an audience needs them. Betray that investment and we aren’t coming back. In the end, I don’t know when “winning” ceased being a term of endearment for Charlie Sheen; when we finally gave up on Lindsay Lohan’s acting career; or when Mel Gibson’s image traversed from Oscar-winning actor to anti-Semite figurehead (OK that’s a lie, I have a pretty good idea of when Mel made that journey). It didn’t happen in an instant. Bad publicity kept adding up; and for those entertainers, the spotlight is seemingly forever dimmed.

In the months leading up to this season, I started to ponder whether the Sox, under this leadership group, would come ever back. But the truth is this: the garbage never should have mattered. At its core, sports is a business. We realized this long ago and we’re constantly reassured of its circumstance from agents and players. Owners will downplay the notion, but profit margins do matter. Maybe John Henry and Co. lost their way, but whatever – to me, this was always about something more.

 It was about ‘Tek’s steadiness, Pedro’s smile, and Wake’s mediocrity (slight dig, but true). It was about Schilling’s toughness; Pokey Reese scooping up a ground ball and exorcising 86 years of demons in one simple toss to first base; Mark Bellhorn hitting a dinger off Pesky’s Pole in Game 1 of the World Series; and our concession and agreement to let Manny be Manny, for better or – most times – for worse. It was about Papi. It was even about the Rem-Dog; about Red Sox Nation; and all the pageantry that comes with summer nights at Fenway Park.

I’m a realist. Gun to my head: I still think the Red Sox won’t win 90 games. They probably won’t make the playoffs. But after nearly two years of waiting, it’s finally about baseball again. The tension of everything else is pushed aside. Isn’t that a relief? Hmm, that word again, “relief.” Maybe it wasn’t just the ownership group that desperately wanted that feeling, after all.

Follow Ryan Hadfield on Twitter @Hadfield__


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

News

Mets mascot Mr. Met target of Bill Clinton…

Mets mascot Mr. Met has told how he ended up in the crosshairs of a Secret Service sniper rifle. The man behind the Mr. Met…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

Television

Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…

Television

Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.

NHL

Rangers draw first blood against Flyers in Game…

Brad Richards and Derek Stepan scored power-play goals 47 seconds apart to lead the Rangers to a 4-1 win.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.