For a few years, baseball fans have tolerated Red Sox Nation, and why not? This group, while a little obsessive in certain aspects of their fandom, had suffered years of mismanagement and bad luck until the 2004 World Series.
With the Red Sox improbable comeback in the ALCS and subsequent steamrolling of St. Louis, Red Sox fans could finally bask in the glory of a World Series victory, something they had not seen since the end of the Great War. After that, thought, it was all downhill for the Nation.
First, MLB.com decided that citizens of Red Sox Nation needed an official card. It was bad enough that these fans often acted as though they, and not the players on the field, had won the World Series; now they had their own cards too. Slowly, the Red Sox were catching up to the Yankees. They’re the second most popular team in the Majors and second most despised as well. It’s funny how winning a World Championship can change an empathetic fan into a hater in the blink of an eye.
But the Nation persisted well into 2005. No longer bemoaning the Red Sox’s string of bad luck, this group decided that they were now entitled to everything. Red Sox blogs created unrealistic master plans for trades, free agent signings, winning. These fans wanted to do everything to beat the Yankees even if it meant becoming the Yankees by outspending every other team and gobbling up high-priced free agents at ludicrous salaries.
Yet, no one had made that fateful leap over the shark. At least, not until this week. Jumping the shark, a term popularized by Jon Hein, refers to, as the ever-reliable Wikipedia says, when a pop culture group “is in retrospect judged to have passed its ‘peak’ and shows a noticeable decline in quality, or when it has undergone too many changes that take away the original charm and interest.” Red Sox Nation managed to jump the shark in one felt swoop with a new Web site: KeepManny.com.
This Web site, operated by Red Sox Nation member Jeffery M. Guinee, is an attempt to collect signatures from fans urging the Red Sox to retain the services of Manny Ramirez. Red Sox Nation has jumped the shark.
In my opinion, this site transcends fandom and reeks of, well, a cry for attention. What can Red Sox Nation do this time to garner media attention? No Cowboy Up this year; no 3-0 comeback. They have to do something to stay news. So the site urges the Red Sox to keep Manny. “Don’t trade him, please! I’ll even name my firstborn after him,” says one signer of the petition.
Of course, the site doesn’t seem to care that Manny’s the one who wants out of Boston, that he’s the one unhappy that he can’t go any privacy. No one from Boston has ever said the team is keen on trading him. Larry Lucchino and the four-headed GM monster know that it’s impossible to replace one of the game’s greatest hitters who owns a career line of .314/.409/.599. But this site acts as though it is the front office, so vilified for the dealings with Theo Epstein earlier this fall, that wants to send Manny off to Shea or Anaheim.
The Manny Situation has long been public knowledge. And this site seems to be just another in the long line of people looking to knock Larry Lucchino down a peg. It’s also the moment, for me, when Red Sox Nation lost that original charm, showed a noticeable decline in quality, and underwent just one too many changes for its own good. It’s no longer about being obsessed and slightly crazed fans who root for a team that likes to play ball the right well. Now it’s about the media attention, the official citizenship cards, and showing that true red Red Sox spirit. Red Sox Nation has jumped the shark.
(As a closing note, some of my good friends and co-bloggers among the many voices of the Internet are very rational Red Sox fans. I still respect you all as fans, and I don’t associate the shenanigans of the card-carrying RSN fans who have hopped on the bandwagon with those I know to be true members of the Fenway Faithful.)