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.