For Boston sports fans, winning changed everything.
The city’s four major sports franchises have combined to win 12 championships since 2000. That means if you’re a Boston fan in your mid-20s or younger, you don’t know what it’s like not to be at the top of the sports landscape. That concept would have been unfathomable to Boston sports fans in the 1990s.
Boston’s overwhelming success over the last two decades — particularly the Patriots’ and Red Sox’ — seems to have created a divide among the fanbase. Those who experienced the pre-2000 championship droughts understand that the incredible 20-year run was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For those who grew up during the Tom Brady era, anything less than a title is a failure.
Our insiders John Tomase, Phil Perry, Tom E. Curran, and Chris Forsberg discussed that divide in the second installment of our “State of the Fan” series.
You can check out Part 1 of the series, “How has Boston sports fandom changed over the years?’ here.
Red Sox insider John Tomase: “I had a friend in college, born and raised Bostonian, humongous Red Sox fan. Absolutely had his heart ripped out in ’86, had his heart ripped out in ’95, any year that you can come up with, 2003. And he said to me, and he meant it, ‘There’s a part of me that hopes they never win.’ Because it really is all about that chase and once you’ve caught it, it’s gone, you can never recreate that.
“And I mentioned this to a couple of other people and they’re like, ‘Oh, he’s not a real fan. He’s an idiot.’ But it’s like, if you lived it, you kind of get it. You kind of get that it was really about just that pursuit. That never-ending, ‘How are we going to get there?’ And if we fall short, then we’re gonna go back at it again next year. And so, you obviously don’t have that with the generation of fans now, and I don’t know that that’s necessarily about thing because we were pretty fatalistic about lots of stuff.”
Patriots insider Phil Perry: “Part of your identity as a Red Sox fan was being critical of the team and really disliking moves that they made or couldn’t make or wouldn’t make and getting worked up about it. And, ‘Man, if they had only done this and that, what are they thinking?’ And, ‘They need to make a change here and they need to make a change there.’ You just sort of got into that mode and it was part of how you experienced your team.
“So I wouldn’t necessarily put myself in the camp of your friend, John, but I do understand that part of it that, that has gone away. I also think there are people generationally from the same time period that also consume the teams differently, right? This is completely anecdotal, but I think it was two days ago on 98.5 The Sports Hub. They were bashing the Patriots and ‘Are the Patriots ready for the season?’ and ‘What’s Bill Belichick doing?’ And somebody who’s a Patriots fan since 1952 calls in and says, ‘We won for 20 years. That was enough, OK? They’ll figure it out, they’ll be OK, we had it really good here for a long time.’
“And he’s probably speaking for a decent percentage of people out there that are like him who saw the team suck for a long time and then had the highest of highs for a long time. And they’re saying, ‘Do I really want to complain about this team?'”
Patriots insider Tom E. Curran: “I will say this about the generational divide too. My kids don’t sit down in front of SportsCenter on television and consume it there. Everything’s on their phone. That generational divide is so interesting to watch because they have much more information in their brains because they scroll through it more quickly than we do. ‘Gotta get home, turn on the TV, see what’s up. Gotta get in the car, turn on the radio, hear what’s going on.’ For those folks who are not on Twitter, which I would imagine a lot of the folks who, like me, were born between ’65 and ’75 are not.'”
Celtics insider Chris Forsberg: “I think superstars matter, right? We were spoiled to have (Tom) Brady and (David) Ortiz and KG (Kevin Garnett). Everything became appointment television. And maybe it doesn’t quite feel that way right now. That’s weird for me to say because I sometimes have to step back and remind myself how big Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are. But you’re gonna mention Luka (Doncic) and Giannis Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and (Joel) Embiid) and LeBron (James) before you probably get to them in terms of must-watch TV.”
For the full discussion, you can watch the YouTube video below: