Defending your Fan Base! A Boston Sports-Fan’s request to all Sports Fans.

As a sports fan, you live and die by your team. We all know and accept this. Your team is the best one, no one else should care about anything but your team, and every other team should just get out of the way of your team winning the championship. Your team deserves the best free agents and trades, and you can’t IMAGINE why a player would sign with that other team, just for a couple extra bucks (okay, maybe if you’re a realistic sports fan, that part you can always understand).

BUT – here’s something I’ve been forced to come to terms with since moving away from the city in which my fandom is centralized around: Your Fan Base has a national perception. And most likely it’s not great. This brings me to my question – can you defend your fan base as strongly as you defend your team? I’m leaving this open to all fan bases, as I know a ton that are members of the more prominent/loud/obnoxious/angry/passionate fan bases.

I’ll offer my two-cents about Boston fans. I know we are widely considered to be among the most obnoxious and passionate fan bases in the country. I’m not going to say “best” or “worst,” because that’s just a matter of opinion (and if you pay attention to Deadspin now, as they tear apart each NFL team before the season starts, every NFL fan base sucks and doesn’t deserve anything). Boston fans can be loud, Boston fans can be over-the-top, Boston fans can be extreme – we’re either going all the way this year or we’ll never win another game again. We’re superstitious and negative, but we’ll stand by the Patriots through “SpyGate,” defend David Ortiz and his PED allegations, cheer for Brad Marchand whenever he does anything that makes you as an opposing fan hate him. Kevin Garnett was a smack-talking bully on the court, but he was OUR smack-talking bully. (And now Brooklyn’s smack-talking bully). We’ll argue that Nomar was better than Jeter, and Pedroia is better than Cano. Williams was better than DiMaggio. Bobby Orr better than Gretsky. Bird better than Magic. Not sure how many of those arguments we win in other states.

You can call us obnoxious, you can call us homers, you can call us never-satisfied, you can call us championship-hungry, you can call us shitty fans. Most of you do anyways.  But at least we care about ALL of our teams. Boston is one of a few cities that can call themselves a Baseball town, a Hockey town, A Basketball town and a Football town without any detractors. Most cities can only claim ONE of those sports, maybe two. I live in Los Angeles currently – they’re definitely a Basketball town. No doubt about that. The LA Kings won the 2012 Stanley Cup. Not sure I’d call LA a Hockey Town. I just went to the 3-game series between the Red Sox and Dodgers. The Dodgers are one of the hottest teams in baseball right now – still not sure I’d call LA a baseball town. LA doesn’t even have a football team, so that’s out of the question.

Growing up, I just missed out on the Celtics’ era of greatness, too young to really follow the Bruins mid 80s-mid 90s unsuccessful playoff runs. The Patriots weren’t good during that stretch until they somehow made it into Superbowl XXXI in 1996, only to get crushed by Brett Favre’s Packers. I only remember being interested in the Red Sox as a child. Maybe because we’d go to Fenway once a season. Maybe because big-name players like Mo Vaughn, Roger Clemens and Jose Canseco were on the team. And Nomah! I followed the Celtics when Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker came onto the scene, then quickly lost interest in the NBA (something that seems to happen with me in waves). But as a Boston fan I always had a connection to those teams, even if they weren’t relevant or I didn’t pay attention to the league at the time. I’ve conjectured recently that depending on what era in a team’s history you grew up in, whether they are relevant for greatness or relevant for never-winning, that’s the team you’re most connected to. I grew up between the Red Sox’s 1986 World Series loss (missed it by a month, thanks Mom and Dad!) and the 2004 “Curse-Breaking” Champs. What happened in Red Sox land during that 18-year stretch? Oh just 5 playoff appearances/exits and 4 Yankees World Series wins. That puts me in familiar territory to any generation of Red Sox fan in the prior 86 years.

I grew up in the last 18 years of Red Sox franchise woes. We had the talent, we just never could put it together. But that’s the sentiment that overwhelmingly took over my young self as I grew into a Boston sports fan. That’s hard to shake. I’m not apologizing for every instance of a Boston fan complaining about a 3-game losing streak when we’re still in 1st place, or worrying about losing 1 game in the Stanley Cup playoffs because a couple years ago we lost 4 straight to lose the series after being up 3-0. But Boston fans are always VERY aware of our teams’ past history. Or recent history. No one would bring themselves to predict the 2013 Red Sox would be this good this far into the season, after the debacle that was 2012. It’s about managing expectations. Sometimes, we know we have a good shot – like the last 10 years of Patriots teams. We know when we don’t have a shot – like the upcoming Celtics season. Worrying and complaining is all part of what makes us Boston sports fans, and to a certain extent, sports fans in general. While the teams we root for may be different, we’re all sports fans at our foundation. We just want to see our teams do well and win championships. It’s something we have very little control over, but because it has such a community-bonding capacity, we let sports take over our lives and emotions. Our anxiety and stress levels shoot through the roof during playoff runs. We check standings every day as part of our morning routines. Sports are a water-cooler topic of conversation, before or after you’re done talking about the last episode of Breaking Bad. Nothing beats going to a live sporting-event; where else can you see 30,000-70,000 people from one community experiencing  the same thing? Non-sports fans like going to games for the environment. Maybe they’ll learn a thing or two from their super-fan boyfriend/girlfriend/family member/friend. Our biggest sports stars are legitimate celebrities.  We have a growing number of 24/7 sports television networks. It’s real-life drama, complete with scandals, redemption stories, “good guys” and “bad guys.” Being a fan is simply picking sides – something that you can’t really do in any other form of entertainment.

So that brings me to my request, fellow sports fans. Please comment, on here, on Facebook, on Twitter, wherever, with your thoughts on being a sports fan, and defending your particular fan base. Help me realize how similar we all are, we’re just rooting for different color jerseys.

**UPDATE – I was waiting for Deadspin to post their “Why Your Team Sucks” for the Patriots this season, and forgot they had real Pats fans write in and complain about themselves. So in the spirit of “Defending” your fan base (really the opposite), here’s some raw thoughts from real Deadspin readers/Patriots fans about why they hate other Patriot fans, and by virtue other Boston Fans.

Thoughts on Boston, Terror, and the Bigger Picture

An entry by my girlfriend, Anneliese Waddington, expressing her view on this week’s events:Image

This week has left me uneasy. I have felt worry, and I have felt anger. These feelings surface each time we experience a national tragedy at the hands of someone who intended to take innocent lives, and leave behind emotional and physical scars. Our nation as a whole has many scars. A flash of fear, of anxiety, when you board an airplane, or when you sit in a classroom, or when you settle into a seat at the movie theater, or when you pray in your place of worship. And now, when you gather as a community. That’s what hits hard about Monday’s bombings. This was not a routine flight, a routine day at school, a routine trip to the movies. This instills a fear of gathering together as a community in celebration. A day where we celebrate accomplishment, push ourselves to achieve something great, or simply cheer on thousands of people we will never meet, but who for that one day become our friends, our family. That is where my anger comes from. That the underlying intention was to destroy the safety of a community, to shatter at the most basic level, togetherness. In the aftermath, I have seen and witnessed an overwhelming sense of community, of the good people. And this gives me some peace. Our nation’s tragedies have shown us that there is more good than bad, and that no one is ever alone in their darkest moments. I am grateful to be a part of a country where we have this certainty. But then I think about nations where Monday’s horror is a daily occurrence. Where the victims become a number, not a face. Not a name to be remembered by 300,000,000 people, not a life to be celebrated. Simply a casualty. And as I see the enormous outpouring of support for those victims of Boston, of Newtown, of Aurora, I can’t help but think of humanity as a community. What makes the people of Boston any different from the people of Iraq, of Sudan, of Venezuela? A headline from the Huffington Post on Monday, April 15th, reads “Iraq Attacks Kill Dozens, Wound Over 100 In Several Cities.” And the headline goes by unnoticed by most, as we have become indifferent to headlines like these, because we see them daily, and we have adapted the ability to detach from it.  And when I think about it, that is a problem. I have no answer. I don’t know where the responsibility lies, where being part of a nation ends and being part of humanity begins. Millions of Americans spring to action when it’s one of our own, on our own soil. But I think it’s important, in times like these, to step back and take a look around. We are all human. We are all someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s friend. For me, the Boston tragedy hits close to home, because I have been there, and been in those shoes. It could’ve been me. But the feelings surrounding it are no different than how I felt when I heard about the Aurora shootings, September 11th, the Newtown shootings. Because what I felt was for a fellow human being. For someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, friend.

To see so many people come together, to hear the stories of heroism, help to restore my faith in humanity after a tragedy. But I find myself wondering about the potential in this, why it’s brought out only when we are faced with a tragedy that touches something personal in us. Think of what we, as a nation, as humans, could accomplish if we applied this multitude of support for all of our fellow humans facing terror at the hands of others. It is easy to block it out, to ignore it, to distance yourself from what is happening beyond our borders. But is it right? Or does the burden simply become too great? I choose to have faith in the potential that someday the good can be spread equally. That our sense of community is defined by coming together not just as Bostonians, not just as Americans, but as humans. Humans who take pride in humanity. #WeAreAllHuman

We Are All Boston Patriots

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Like many other displaced Bostonians, the past 4 years Marathon Monday/Patriot’s Day has been a day I missed my hometown the most. Memories starting from when I was a little kid, driving to Wellesley or Newton to catch a glimpse of the city-wide event, cheer runners on as they trek toward their 26.2 mile goal, waiting in the heart of the city, to my college years, gathering on Beacon Street, cheering on the runners, some of whom may be friends or fellow college students, but in a much more mature, outdoor party-like atmosphere. I remember going to the 11 AM Red Sox game, peeking toward Kenmore Square as the game drew to a close, seeing the runners on their last few miles toward the end. Then going into Kenmore to cheer them on and give high fives to the tens of thousands of brave, strong-willed and no doubt tired people with numbers on their bibs.

That’s what Patriot’s Day in Boston is supposed to be about. That’s what it always has been about. And in the wake of yesterday’s horrible tragedies at that same finish line that for over 4 hours after the start of the race this year, and every previous year of the Boston Marathon, meant the final goal of those runners from all across the globe, I have been having a lot of trouble collecting my thoughts. Since moving to Los Angeles, Marathon Monday is a day every year as it approaches, I wish my schedule allowed for a quick extended weekend trip home, just to enjoy in the culture and festivities of the day with my fellow Bostonians, as if I never left. This year, despite the tragedy, I feel no different. I wish I could be there in Boston this week to support those affected by this tragedy by donating blood at the hospital, going to candlelight vigils and walking from BC to the Finish Line. I wish I could go to tomorrow night’s Bruins game and show the country and the world our unified Resilience, as President Obama so rightly characterized our city. I find myself struggling to focus at work, feeling so disconnected to the city I still consider my home. Hours staring at news coverage yesterday, and hours reading stories of the aftermath, hearing our sports radio hosts drop all coverage of sports and discuss how close this city is. Hearing personal accounts, including that of The Sports Hub/Toucher and Rich’s Rich Shertenlieb, who’s voice trembled on the radio as he explained how he doesn’t know what to do with the anger he feels after having to rush his family, including two young boys and a wife undergoing chemotherapy, out of his apartment building right where the second bomb exploded.

In a city where all you hear about is Sports, especially living in a city that holds one of it’s teams biggest basketball rivals, it’s hard to explain to people who aren’t from Boston, WHY Boston is such an incredible place. You hear people chide and berate the city and it’s sports fans for being ourselves – loud, obnoxious and passionate. And that’s all people know about Bostonians. But a tragic event like yesterday’s explosions really shows how tight-knit a community Boston is. Strange for such a large metropolitan area to seem so small and close, but living in the Boston area throughout all my pre-college life, and living in the city for 3+ years during college, I really felt the sense of community. I saw it most prominently after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 – a community of people coming together for a joyous occasion, a shared elation sparked from 86 years of disappointment and agony. You could see it in every subsequent Championship Parade during our decade of winning. A city where you may not always smile or high five the stranger you walk by, suddenly is all smiles and high-fives when a unifying event brings us together. Yesterday’s attacks wasn’t about sports, but it was centered around one of the Nation’s and certainly the city’s biggest sporting events. Sports brings people together – to cheer for a common team, or to cheer on runners going after a common goal like crossing the finish line after 26.2 grueling miles on city streets. And in a city where sports bears such a strong importance, it is no surprise to me how strong and resilient our citizens can be in the face of adversity.

Patriot’s Day is supposed to celebrate everything that Boston is about, and by extension, America is about (for those uninitiated, Patriot’s Day is celebrating those who fought in the first battle of the Revolutionary War, in Lexington and Concord.) We wouldn’t call ourselves Americans if that first battle never happened. And that’s what’s so hard to grasp about this attack – they didn’t just attack the Boston Marathon, they didn’t just attack The City of Boston. They attacked the IDEA of celebration Freedom and Patriotism. It makes me sad to realize that going forward, of course we will continue to host the Marathon every year, on Patriot’s Day. But now, there will be this tragedy looming over everyone’s associations of this day, a day that is supposed to be the best day the city has to offer. Sure, future Marathon’s will still have a sense of celebration and accomplishment, but the institution of Patriot’s Day will now forever be scarred. And I hate that such a happy and joyous event has to be associated with such sadness.

Boston, you’re my home.

*I would like to send out my condolences and thoughts to the 3 families who lost their loved ones in this tragedy; The Cambell Family, The Richard Family, and the Lu family in China.

“Drop the ‘The.’ It’s cleaner.” Reminiscing about old Facebook, my sort of review of “The Social Network”

After seeing “The Social Network,” the story about how the originally programming and company of “Facebook” came about and succeeded, I couldn’t help but be reminiscent of “The Facebook’s” early days, when I first joined in 2005.

One of the major pluses t0 being accepted into a college was getting your “.edu” email address, which meant you could sign up for “The Facebook.” When I joined, it had expanded a good deal from its Harvard-only exclusivity, but nowhere near as open as it is nowadays. It was a couple of years before they let high-schoolers sign up, and then eventually everyone. It was a part of my college experience even before I got to college. I “met” and talked with people who were on my freshman year floor, some of which I would actually become friends with. In REAL life. Although, there was always the awkward “This person is being a little stalkery,” even in the early days. After seeing the movie, at least in the view of the filmmakers, the idea behind the social tool was to be able to find out information about people you knew, or kind of knew, without necessarily having to speak with them directly. This dynamic was already present in existing social networks, especially in Myspace’s case.

Not only did Facebook coincide with my college experience, it really came into my life when I first got my own computer. I’m sure I’m not the only one with this milestone, and it’s an interesting insight into the simultaneously privatized and publicized lives of young college students 5, 6, 7 years ago. We became independent with our own computers, moving away from home into our new lives, which allowed us a more private computing use – no need to worry about sharing a computer with family members, everything you did on your laptop was yours. But at the same time, we began expanding our online lives, sharing various bits of information about ourselves – our interests, our relationships statuses and sexual preferences, who we associate with, what we say to each other, etc.

Once pictures came into the mix, it became a whole new scenario. Suddenly you had to be careful what was posted of you and how you were shown in pictures – underage drinking at college parties, drug use, being in photos with members of the opposite sex when you had a significant other stalking your page. Very quickly, the freedom we had to express ourselves and share our lives with peers online had a shadow cast over it – there were consequences to our online actions, oftentimes dire ones – relationships ruined, jobs lost, parents upset.

Speaking of parents, once Facebook was opened up to the general public, where anyone with an email could join, many of our generation’s parents started joining, as they had obviously heard so much about it from us, because it was as much a part of our lives as college and high school kids as music, movies, comedy, fashion, drinking, partying – any and all of our interests.

Through the whole time, Facebook was expanding and quickly becoming the biggest social network out there, and making Mark Zuckerberg the youngest billionaire in the world. This is where I found “The Social Network” very interesting. Having been on Facebook from its earlier stages (not the earliest obviously, but within a year or so of its inception), it was interesting to see what was happening behind the scenes with Zuckerberg and his business partners throughout my own personal experiences with Facebook. I remember when they dropped the “The” from the title. I remember when it expanded worldwide, and when it reached 1 million members, and it’s so amazing to think that now, only a few years later, they’re at 500 million members and still growing.

A good way to conclude this pseudo-review would be to imagine what life through college would have been like without having this social tool to help us through it. Sure, there would have been other venues of communicating with each other – perhaps AIM or G-Chat later on would continue to carry online communications between college kids. Perhaps texting would have taken off a few years earlier. Of course, another new thing would eventually have to come along, clearly the idea was thought of in similar senses in similar circles, had Zuckerberg not created what he created. But despite all those “what-ifs,” the fact remains that Facebook exists, and is pretty much in everyone’s lives, whether they use it every day, or just check it every so often. It’s helped college kids make new friends freshman year, it’s helped people find former high school and college classmates, years after they’ve lost touch. It’s allowed us to share anything and everything with each other, its helped craft both the course of our personal lives online, and also the course of social media in general. Now, you can log in to almost any site with your Facebook profile, there isn’t a site out there that doesn’t allow you to share things on Facebook. “Facebooking” and “Friending” are in our collective vernacular, (and in our dictionaries, at least in the case of the latter). Facebook is as much a part of our lives as television or movies are, it’s even social water-cooler talk – “did you see what Jim said on his Facebook? He caught a foul ball at the Sox game yesterday, and was on TV!”

I was thinking a bit about brand loyalty while watching “The Social Network,” and I came to this conclusion – there are very few companies that have such a strong hold on their consumer base as Facebook does. Apple comes to mind, but it’s slightly different, because Apple creates tactile products that cost money. Facebook is a free, extremely useful tool, and I think it may be safe to say it goes beyond seeing Facebook as a brand. I really think that it’s clearly not a fad, and may even overtake our use of email as the primary source of online communication. If not Facebook specifically, than the various social networks that exist – Facebook for primarily social forms of communication, Linked-In, or something similar for our business networking, Twitter for real-time updates on news, events, traffic conditions, whatever.

It’s an exciting time we’re living in, in terms of technology and social media – things that haven’t always garnered such strong attention, and in the case of social media, didn’t exist a decade ago. Just look at the box office numbers for “The Social Network” after this weekend is done. The movie isn’t even necessarily an entirely fact-based account of the beginnings of the Social Media giant. But everyone is going out to see it, because everyone is on Facebook, and everyone is interested in its story. And it’s a good story to be told.

Feel free to Facebook your comments.

Oh yeah, and my quick review of the movie itself – Aaron Sorkin wrote a great script, extremely well-shot and directed, thanks to Mr. David Fincher and his DP, Jeff Cronenweth, and the interpersonal drama between the main characters, despite being almost entirely based on legal issues and testimony, which many find tedious and boring, was compelling throughout. While no one actor really shined off the screen, perhaps Justin Timberlake could be mentioned just for the fact that he’s proving himself to be more talented than any of us thought from his “Bye, Bye, Bye” days with *NSYNC. While Facebook may or may not have started in exactly in the way that the movie portrays, the tension sifts throughout the heavy dialogue and business/legal jib-jab. You leave the movie not really sure whose side to be on, aside from maybe just Facebook’s side. We use it. We like it. We’re addicted to it. We don’t necessarily care one way or another whose original idea it was, or who screwed who out of the company. I for one, am content with simply clicking the big “like” button on “The Social Network.”

The Social Network 2010
I have 660 friends – how many enemies does that mean I have?