Top Sports Media Story of the Decade – Red Sox win 2004 World Series

Spygate may have been a more shameful episode, but the top Boston sports media episode this decade was the Red Sox ending 86 years of futility and winning the 2004 World Series.

Why is it greater?

While Spygate was scandalous and shameful, it did not change the actual manner in which the New England Patriots were covered, not significantly, anyway. If anything, it’s been more of the same in the last two years, especially nationally, more speculation, more focus on the negative, more snide comments.

When the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, the very nature of how the club was covered by the media was changed forever. No longer could columnists and writers refer to some ridiculous curse hanging over the club. No longer could they revisit endlessly the past failures of the franchise and apply them to the current team. This didn’t apply just to the Boston media either, this impacted sports media nationwide.

Dan Shaughnessy lost an entire cottage industry because of this win. He was personally benefitting from the failure of the Red Sox. (Even after his employer became a part-owner of the franchise) Each time the Red Sox ended another season without a World Series victory, Shaughnessy got to publish an updated version of “The Curse of the Bambino.” That ended here. He tried one last time to cash in with “Reversing the Curse” but faced enormous competition as dozens of books on the 2004 Red Sox flooded the market.

Before 2004, the Red Sox were associated with failure, with late season collapses, with getting so close and still finding ways to lose. After the Red Sox roared back from an 0-3 deficit to their longtime nemesis, the New York Yankees in the ALCS, winning the series in Yankee Stadium and doing something no MLB team had ever done before, and then swept the St Louis Cardinals (to whom the Red Sox lost heartbreaking World Series in 1946 and 1967) in the World Series, past failures were left behind.

Before the Red Sox got over that hump, and won it all, the media warned fans of getting what they wished for. They said that things would never be the same if the Red Sox won the World Series.

Bob Lobel, the long time WBZ-TV sportscaster conducted a Boston.com chat in 2003. During the course of that chat, he said:

This is the ultimate dilemma. Of course fans want the Red Sox to win the World Series, but the dilemma is be careful what you wish for because you might get it. And if the Red Sox played the Cubs in the World Series, one of those two franchises will be permanently and forever altered. One of them will never be the same. So remember, while winning is the ultimate goal. If you’re a Sox fan or a Cubs fan, it carries a steep price tag. Life will never be the same. (10/9/2003)

I never quite understood what that “steep price tag” was. Lobel wasn’t the only one spouting this type of opinion. It continued even in the aftermath of the Red Sox World Series victory in 2004.

Chaz Scoggins has covered the Red Sox for The Lowell Sun since 1973, and has been the chief official scorer at Fenway Park since 1978. In December, 2004, following the Red Sox victory, he wrote in The Sun:  Sorry to spoil the party, folks, but the worst thing that could have happened to the Red Sox was to win the World Series.

The worst thing for the Red Sox? I really don’t think so. The Red Sox have gone on to become one of the model franchises in all of professional sports, and passed 500 consecutive sellouts of Fenway Park in June of 2009.

The worst thing for the fans? Many in the media believed that things would change for the fanbase once the Red Sox won it all. They theorized that Red Sox fans were more interested in “the chase” and being a part of the experience, and that once the goal was achieved, many of these fans would lose interest in following the Red Sox. That hasn’t happened. As the Red Sox won a second World Series of the decade in 2007, interest was just as fervent. The consecutive sellout streak speaks to the passion that Boston fans continue to have for the Red Sox.

The Red Sox World Series victory in 2004 was really in many ways, the worst thing for some members of the media, who relied on recycled clichés when talking about and covering the Red Sox. In fact, one of the biggest reasons for the very existence of this web site is because I was so sick of hearing about the curse, reading about the curse, and not being able to get away from all the silliness that came with it.

2004 forced these members of the media to come up with a new way of covering the Red Sox. Previously we couldn’t get through a national TV broadcast of the Red Sox without a Babe Ruth graphic being shown, and highlights of the 1986 World Series being forced upon us. We would read day after day, week after week about how the Red Sox were cursed because then-owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919. But as the late Jerry Gutlon chronicled in, It Was Never About The Babe, there was a lot more to the Red Sox failures.

With the 2004 World Series victory, the media was forced to come up with new angles and storylines around the Red Sox. After decades of revisiting the same incidents of failure over and over, the very nature of how the media covered the team had to change.

That makes this the most significant episode in the Boston sports media for this decade.  

  • kevin

    Well being a Red Sox fan after 2004 but I am ok with the change.

    Did anyone really think the curse was real? It was a turn of phrase, not invented locally, that stuck nothing more. I never heard a serious discussion claiming the curse was real. Gutlon book just rehashed all the stuff that had been said before.

    • Mark

      By saying that it stuck, that’s imnplying that a certain red furred dildo masquerading as a writer wasn’t slinging it against the wall at every opportunity. We get it – it was just a device to sell a poorly researched, superficial history of the Red Sox.

  • Major

    I have memories of someone claiming the ‘the Curse’ wasn’t over until they said it was over. Sounds like belief enough to me.

  • D-man

    Again, the media, not necessarily the fans, insisted the curse was real. In addition to CHBs book, there was an HBO special, a DVD and reams upon reams of newsprint exhorting this. A vast majority of Sox fans understood that the biggest “curse” was the racism, cronyism and insecurity of employees in the Yawkey regime. I have never had a serious conversation with another Sox fan about the curse, either. And the Gutlon book does indeed rehash a lot of known facts. But it also compiles them cohesively, and I give him credit for that.

    • kevin

      but even in the HBO special are a few media members joking about it. Just because it is good copy does not mean people are taking it seriously. The book did not even take it seriously.

    • NS Webster

      I’m not saying this applies to you, but I had plenty of conversations with friends, family members, random strangers, semi-friends, and small talk that dwelled quite a bit on the “curse” and I didn’t need Dan S. to do any of that.

      I think a vast majority of fans were perfectly happy to believe in the “curse” – frankly, without it, all the Sox would be is the Houston Astros.

      • kevin

        I can only speak for me I have never heard anyone media or non that they beleived in any curse and that was the reason the sox did not win a series.
        I heard it as schtick by media and non especially everytime some idiot would dive for Ruth’s Piano or hold an exorcism, but in a serious discussion about baseball not once.

        • Bruce

          The point of all of this was that after 2004, the media stopped referencing the “curse.” I don’t think any one here is of the opinion that the media actually believed in a curse, but that didn’t stop them from mentioning one every chance they got. 2004 put an end to that. That’s the whole point.

        • kevin

          per usual you made your point poorly and got caught up in making your cheap shots. Much like the people you most often complain about.

          The curse was a bit, like the loserville stuff was and the city of the decade nonsense going on more recently it means nothing.

  • mark

    Kevin, this isn’t as transparent as the CHB’s daughter posting on Amazon to counter poor book reviews, but it’s pretty close.

  • Char

    I have to admit that to this day I don’t understand the “be careful what you wish for” comments. How on earth is wishing for and gaining championships a Bad Thing? Isn’t that the POINT?

  • E

    I’d argue it was the media themselves who were silently worrying that while they made fun of CHB, they all wrote shades of the same story. And by the Red Sox winning in ’04, it essentially forced them all to change the script.

    I think the real fans are just as passionate, if not more, now that we’ve had the taste of winning. We just are more willing to look at the big picture.

  • http://twitter.com/BryanPerson/statuses/7235603107 BryanPerson (Bryan Person)

    Twitter Comment


    @KyleFlaherty, @AaronStrout, @AdamCohen, @JimStorer: Here’s @BruceAllen’s top Boston sports media story of the decade: [link to post]

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  • http://twitter.com/jimstorer/statuses/7236278592 jimstorer (Jim Storer)

    Twitter Comment


    RT @BryanPerson @KyleFlaherty @AaronStrout @AdamCohen Here’s @BruceAllen’s top Boston sports media story of the decade: [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Smoky

    Technically speaking doesn’t the decade really end 12/31/2010?

    • Bruce

      Well if you want to get technical, this isn’t New Year’s Eve, either.

      Today is not New Year’s Eve – or the end of the decade

      • Mike

        A decade is any grouping of 10 years. There is nothing wrong with saying the 90s ran from 1990-99 or the ’00s end today. You could come up with a nickname for the period of ten years from 1985-94 if you wanted to. This isn’t like referring to our method of counting centuries, which start at a fixed point in time.

  • Jeff

    I’ll never forget listening to Shaughnessy on Barnicle’s old WTKK show the morning after the Sox defeated the Yanks in game 7 in 2004. Barnicle and his newsguy Hank were saying that the “curse” was over. Dan basically threw a hissy fit on air, insisting it wasn’t over until the Sox won the world series. It was clear Barnicle was trying to tweak him, and equally clear that Dan was either too obtuse, or too wrapped up in himself, to catch on. He kept insisting that since he invented the curse, it wasn’t over until he said it was, which was upon a world series victory.

    It was pathetic, and it was a guy who took both the curse – and his entertainment reporter-self – way too seriously.