Boston, the Worst Sports City in America



Leafs Nation responds to Grantland’s Stephen Marche. By ’67 Sound, concept courtesy Danny Gray.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Dateline: Boston, September 27, 2001. As another fruitless baseball season draws to a close, Hub fans, it’s time to face the sad reality: Boston is the worst sports city in America.

The evidence is undeniable. Despite adding the $160 million man, Manny Ramirez, in the offseason the Red Sox long ago fell out of playoff contention, thus extending their 83-year long World Series drought. Nonetheless the mindless masses continue to fill creaky Fenway Park near to capacity. The Yawkey Trust has proven time and time again that it has no real interest in winning, nor should it when generations have supported this feckless team notwithstanding its demonstrated incompetence.*

Matters are only bleaker away from Fenway, where at least the Red Sox seem likely to squeak over the .500 mark. The Patriots are already 0-2, and seem destined for another losing season with their fates tied to perennial under-achiever Drew Bledsoe, and no replacement in sight. Robert Kraft is unlikely to turn around this embattled franchise if his hiring of Bill Belichick, a coach so inept he essentially drove the Browns out of Cleveland, is any indication. From all appearances, Kraft’s purchase of the team merely delayed the relocation that seemed almost certain three years ago, and seems more likely with every loss.**

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Nor can Beantowners turn to the Bruins for solace. Their proud string of playoff appearances broken five years ago, they missed the playoffs for the second straight year. Much like the Sox, the Bruins’ avaricious owner Jeremy Jacobs can sleep securely in his ermine-trimmed sheets knowing that the fans will continue to fill the building with no regard for the team’s lack of success. Nor, frankly, do the fans deserve any better. They have never truly warmed to skill players like Joe Thornton, as the team plays to the masses by bringing in talentless goons like Marty McSorley, Ken Baumgartner and Andrei Nazarov in recent years.***

Finally, and most pathetically, are the Celtics, coming off an unimaginable six straight years out of the playoffs. The roster consists of Paul Pierce surrounded by a group of has-beens and never-weres, and another losing season seems almost assured. The Curse of Len Bias may someday rank among the Curse of the Bambino in sporting lore, as the Celtics futility since his death continues to this day with no end in sight.****

What all these disasters have in common is only one thing: Boston. Is it our inferiority complex that dooms our teams to failure? Is it our overly complacent fanbase? Is it our not-always-latent racism? Whatever it is, the only certainty seems to be the incompetence of Boston sports teams.*****

* Led by Manny Ramirez, the Sox would go on to win two of the next six World Series and establish themselves as perennial contenders.

** Led by the unheralded Tom Brady, the Patriots would win the Super Bowl in the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons.

*** The Bruins would make the playoffs eight of the next ten years, winning four division titles and a Stanley Cup.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

**** Led by Paul Pierce, the Celtics would make the playoffs eight of the next ten years, winning five division titles, two Eastern Conference titles and one NBA Championship.

***** Boston is currently widely considered the best sports city in America. The point is not that Toronto is likely to experience a run of success comparable to that enjoyed by Boston the past ten years. The point is that blaming a city or its fans for the failings of its professional sports teams is narrative-driven tripe of the worst kind. For more on this issue, please read Down Goes Brown’s and Michael Forbes’ still sadly relevant gems.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • RexLibris

    Thank you for writing this.

    I’m an Oiler fan and the past few years, understandably, have seen a fair share of people saying, sometimes verbatim, that nobody would ever want to play here and that any stars we stumble upon will certainly decide to leave for more successful or metropolitan climates the first chance they get. They have often gone on to cite the cliched “Deadmonton” slurs. Vancouver fans, of late, have been among the most vocal and I have noticed that the level of belligerence is directly related to the percieved success of the city’s teams.

    But the reverse of this, that the team’s success can mask what is, essentially, an unpleasant living environment, never seems to dawn on people. Detroit is certainly no urban eden, yet the team performs well and so players are drawn to it. For many cities, success breeds acclaim. Ottawa is a lovely city, but not many players asked to be traded there in the early 90s. Other cities never lack player interest, but it isn’t necessarily to the team’s advantage; Phoenix had this reputation for a long time.

    • The '67 Sound

      Indeed, I used the Detroit argument on Twitter recently. For the kind of player I would want, organizational strength is more likely to matter than the city.

      • RexLibris

        Agreed. Phoenix and other warm climate expansion cities used their environment to lure free agent players when they started up and eventually had to backtrack on that strategy because it created a “country-club” atmosphere. Even Toronto relied on that prior to the lockout and all without any success to show for it.

        The best teams are the ones that are built to win, it sounds like a banal tautology, but it resonates when you emphasize the word “built”, and that care has to be paid not only to the stats sheet and the namebar but also the quality of player. The ’94 Rangers weren’t exactly all-world talent, they were good, but it was the unquantifiable quality of their leader that made the difference.

        The details of the city matter for a player with a family who looks at schools and crime rates and neighbourhoods, but even those details can be subjective to the player. What one person finds attractive the other might find off-putting. Nylander’s wife didn’t want Edmonton, and it turns out that we were better off not wanting Nylander. Or his wife.

        • The '67 Sound

          Remember when Hedo Turkoglu chose the Raptors because he preferred Toronto as a city to the alternative (Utah? Portland? I can’t remember).

          That didn’t work out so well.