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The Cult of Boston

They remind me of the Sirens. They sing you songs about sorrow, about the blues, and they hang out in the lake like Peter Pan's mermaids. They grab onto your ankles, they pull you down, and they want you to join them down below and blast your vocal chords like you're at a New Orleans funeral.

... The only thing is, the doctrine not longer holds.

It held in 2003, when Aaron Boone's shot sailed high into the left field bleachers at (old) Yankee Stadium, after Grady Little's decision to leave a sliding Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the ALCS. It held in 1986, obviously, when Bill Buckner... oh, heck, you know what happened.

It held in the late 1980s and early 90s, when the Boston Bruins' stacked team of Ray Bourque, Cam Neely and Andy Moog would get OH, SO CLOSE, only to face the Wayne Gretzky/Mark Messier-led Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup final, or the Mario Lemieux/Jaromir Jagr-led Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference final.

It held until 2001, when the New England Patriots could never deliver under Drew Bledsoe, or before him.

And, what about the Boston Celtics? They were never the same after the departure of Bird... their only "glory" was in 2002, when Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce led a 21-point comeback victory against the New Jersey Nets in game three... but, they lost that series in six games.

The only thing that Boston really had was a Doug Flutie Hail Mary... and that seems to mean as much to Canadians and CFL fans now as it does to Massachusetts.

Oh, yes, the sad song had been sung and, for a while, the world seemed to play that little violin with them.

The cult had hit its peak, and members were coming in from everywhere, ready to drink the Kool-Aid with Bostonians, whose beloved Boston Red Sox were treated so unfairly by a New York Yankees squad that bought its players and tried to buy its wins.

Of course, we now look at those Red Sox like we look at Rob Lowe... you just weren't what we thought you were.

(P.S. I love Rob Lowe - fantastic actor, but questionable social life.)

The Red Sox have always bought their players, they just couldn't do it as well as New York could because, well, Boston isn't New York. Somehow, the Red Sox (the team that symbolizes Boston's sports scene better than any of the other major clubs, and thus takes the brunt of my focus) got a whole nation of people -- a whole cult - to band together and believe in their philosophy, their manifesto.

Bottom's up!

They became the team that represented all of us, with their cowboy shtick in 2003 (that didn't work) and their gang of idiots routine in 2004 (that did)... really, though, we should have been cheering for Oakland, for Tampa, for Colorado. Those guys were the real deal, the real Jugheads of the gang.

(FACT: The Red Sox emotional/figurative leader was Johnny Damon, a guy who (if you've seen Moneyball, you'll know) left the Oakland Athletics for the Red Sox fame and fortune and somehow became a blue collar icon... and then, left Boston for more fame and fortune in New York. But, still, a real blue collar guy...)

We cheered for the Red Sox because the city had suffered through 86 years (okay, I'll admit that's a long time) of losing and futility. We cheered for them even more because those 86 years had included the Buckner incident and the Boone incident... times when they had been so close, so close and yet so far (Frankie Valli - "My Eyes Adored You").

Their fanbase came from all across the vast lands of North America, from parts of Canada and the nether-regions of the United States, and maybe even from Tijuana and the rest of Mexico. They had people claiming that Boston was "MY TOWN!" and that the Red Sox were "MY TEAM!"


The cult is dead, and yet it somehow lives.

There's no reason to love Boston anymore, and yet some people do.

There's still this fanbase, following New England on a phony and flawed principle.

Most sports fans cheer for the place they live -- Seattle, Calgary, and even Little Rock, Arkansas.

But, Boston fans? The ones not from Boston? They've made up a new hometown, some fake allegiance to a city that has no idea who they are... but they are suddenly converted Bostonians, all because somebody told them not to cheer for the Yankees.

(I mean, listen, Tom Brady wears a Yankees cap... get over yourselves.)

And, really, there's no reason to whine anymore:

Boston Red Sox: World Series titles in 2004 and 2007

Boston Celtics: NBA Champions in 2008

New England Patriots: Super Bowls in 2001, 2003, and 2004

Boston Bruins: Stanley Cup four months ago

So why, why, WHY (!) do I still have to hear about them every time they lose?

Why must "Boston fans" (who live in British Columbia, or Greenland, or California, or anywhere that's not Boston) act like the world is over when the Red Sox don't make the playoffs in 2011? When the Celtics lose to the Heat, or the Bulls, or the Magic? When the Bruins don't win in 2012? When the Patriots lose to the Giants?

The Cult: "Oh, that Manning-to-Tyree catch... I still can't watch it..."

Me: What's the matter? Your three Super Bowls haven't given you enough satisfaction? What about the Cubs, who haven't won since 1908?

The Cult: "Oh, they're a bunch of losers."

Me: Right, you mean like you were for 86 years? Okay, well, why don't you like the Yankees?

The Cult: "It's like cheering for Wall Street. We're Main Street."

Me: Right... because you have a $161 salary and you paid $50 million just to have the first negotiating rights for Daisuke Matsuzaka? Because you spent more money on Carl Crawford than the Tampa Bay Rays could ever afford to, and he's turned out to be a worse acquisition than when the Giants got Barry Zito?

Anyway... great city, though. I loved Fenway.

This article was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.

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