The stormy fan

by Beacon Staff • October 26, 2005

Sure, everyone loves a winner, but anyone who roots for the underdog knows the losers are much more endearing.,"I have an issue with the "fair-weather fan" bashing I have seen in Boston in the past year, and specifically Lauren DeLong's "Fair-weather fans frustrate" article in last week's Berkeley Beacon.

Sure, everyone loves a winner, but anyone who roots for the underdog knows the losers are much more endearing. There's a mind-altering disease that old-school Red Sox fans are high on these days though: let's call it Hub-centricism.

The disease is defined by memory loss: now that the Sox have won and are the center of the sports universe, the "die-hard" fans believe it has always been thus, that there wasn't a time where crowds applauding fruitlessly was believed to be the cure for the Curse of the Bambino.

Now that we've all cheered and we've all cared, not sharing the Red Sox is unsportsmanlike, especially when a real supporter should believe that the best thing for the team is a more-the-merrier attitude-whether they win or lose.

I guess you could call me a stormy-weather fan. I think that teams whose loser status is legendary are the best to join. These organizations will roll out the welcome mat for anyone who roots for their cause.

For someone who was raised without a sports team, this has been key to those who command my adulation.

I don't think those on guard for "fair-weather fans" know what it is like not to have a team-one you're raised with, one you're trained to love. I grew up without a baseball or a football team to call my own in the sports-deprived state of Utah.

When my family moved to my mother's hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. before the start of high school, I came down with what some might call a bout of fair-weatheritis.

The Buffalo Bills enthusiasts welcomed me because it was in my blood, but also because they needed all the help they could get.

Not only did my mom root for the Bills, who were one of the lowliest teams on the scene and still are, but she also had cheered for them for 20 years while she was 2,000 miles across the country.

This was because the Bills are a metaphor for her town as well: always behind the eight-ball, never with quite enough money or quite enough luck in the draft to get as ahead as they'd like.

But, the Bills never dip below the radar of the nation's sports lovers because they are so famously bad.

And like Sox fans, Bills devotees are equally legendary as the most loyal in the league. It's that scrappy reputation that I have grown to love and that my mother could never forget. By the time I came to Emerson, I was used to teams that did their home city proud, regardless of wins or losses. I found it easy to leave New York's Yankees behind because I recognized something special in the Sox.

They showed how a place with history and heroes could draw on that strength to persevere, even when the present had left them behind.

After 86 years of crushing defeat, the Sox were experienced underdogs, and while despair came with the territory of becoming a part of Red Sox nation, dignity did as well.

Adrift in a new city, I found a home at Fenway where I had my first official date with my new boyfriend. That day, I bought my first "fashionable" Sox hat to show my new allegiance, and it is still a treasured possession.

I'd never had a baseball team before. I went to games all summer-it wasn't hard because tickets weren't so much in demand then.

I saw the Sox beat the Yankees. I felt like I was watching history unfold. I was thrilled to be a part of it, even if I didn't remember the score.

But then the Sox stunned the world last year and won the World Series. And suddenly, I wasn't a welcome member of Red Sox nation anymore.

Where once I'd have good-natured fights in New York bars over my Red Sox hat, now Sox buffs quiz me pointedly about the latest stats.

Where before it was enough to say you loved the losers, now even liking the winners is suspicious.

What I'm asking is this: for the "die-hards" to give newcomers a chance to love a team like they do. Don't sit on the edge of Red Sox Nation like a Texas border patrolman, shotgun in hand.

I may be a clueless Sox supporter now, but be patient and I'll be less so each day. It takes a long time to become a seasoned fan-after all, it took Red Sox followers their whole lives.

I may not know the latest score, but as a writer I can understand a compelling metaphor.

The best sports teams are the ones that are metaphors for the towns and cities they play for, that inspire those parts of the country that are defined by their graceful losses and please their fans regardless of the score.

That's why it always makes the papers when the losers win: the whole world loves a happy ending. Why does it seem like those who call themselves die-hard are those who begrudge all of us the joy of this long-awaited rebirth?

Maybe they're the ones who are missing something.

"

[gallery]