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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

All We are Saying, Give Them a Chance

(This column, and many others, appear on my two sites ... and DigitalSportsDesk/


BOSTON - April 12, 2016 — Today is game No. 7 of the brand new 2016 baseball season, jammed with 162 games for the Boston Red Sox and their American League rivals. It’s time to hit the “Panic Button.” As I’m reading it today, the boo-birds are already flocking and the sky is falling over Fenway Park.

Sox ace David Price was mowing down Orioles early in his Fenway Park debut in a home team uniform on a day deemed so special that the two greatest players in NBA and NHL history, Bill Russell and Bobby Orr (apologies the The Great One) were on site to pay tribute to the Sox. Then, the roof seats caved in as Price was responsible for five runs, all earned, as he allowed more than three earned runs in a start at Fenway for the first time in his career. 

While the ace faltered, the Red Sox offense rallied to tie the home opener at six apiece before newly acquired closer Craig Kimbrel came in to mop things up in the top of the ninth. The sequel? Hit the Panic Button II.

Kimbrel was making his first appearance at Fenway as a member of the Red Sox, of course, and allowed a three-run blast off the bat of Baltimore’s Chris Davis in the top of the ninth inning. It was the first time the million dollar arm reliever had ever surrendered a home run with multiple runners on base. The Sox lost their first hope game for only the sixth time in the last 24 seasons and only the second time in the last dozen years. Cue the boo-birds.

But, seriously.

One game does not a season make. The 3-3 Sox will face the undefeated Orioles again today and tomorrow. There’s a long way to go. However, in this “cheap shot via twitter” universe we live in, it’s so easy to take a swipe at those who suffer in the MACY*S window that is sports.

Build-up PGA phenom Jordan Spieth and prepare to crown him “the next great player, PGA Tour Player of the Year and “back-to-back” Masters champ and see what you get? An epic meltdown, yes, but a choke? No. Jordan Spieth has many a major ahead of him and he will stand in the winner’s trophy presentation spotlight more than his fair share of times. He is not a “choker” and will never be. He is a champion.

In these United States, we just love to build up our heroes, then we love to mock them as we tear them down. It is as American as political chicanery. 

Which brings me to the boo-birds.

We read the snarky twitter comments and heard the boos come raining down on Pablo Sandoval as the Red Sox masterfully produced their opening day ceremonies and introductions. Pablo’s belt buckle quickly became a Giphy sensation, right alongside of the “cryin’ Michael Jordan” memes. A week into the season and fans who consider themselves loyal and knowledgable are all too quick to bury the Panda.

I’m not sitting here, like a cheerleader or team spinster. I’m just wondering why?

Is it the contract? Is it the weight? A weight he carries around on his Mack Truck frame or is it the far heavier weight of expectations and pressure he carries everyday as he drives to the park or stops in a store?  At those times, he’s being adored and asked for autographs with smiles and a “you can do it” front.

Do fans snark and boo only when the fans, in vast obscurity with 31,159 others at the park, armed with Twitter and a gif-maker?  Or is it the more dangerous fan in a more camouflaged setting in their living rooms, kickin’ it back in their PJs on the coach, who become the slayer of Panda?

All we are saying? It’s G7 of the 2016 baseball season. Give them a chance.

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