Schadenfreude. Defined as “delight in another person’s misfortune.”
It’s the only thing keeping me going.
After an absolutely miserable year as a sports fan — my Cowboys, Sooners and Bulldogs all lost their biggest games to their biggest rivals — my only comfort is seeing Boston sports fans suffer, too.
Last year, Boston almost pulled off the unthinkable: winning all three major sports championships. The Red Sox came within three runs of a repeat World Series appearance, and the Patriots were an impossible David Tyree catch away from a perfect season. The Celtics ended up being the only ones to hold up their end of the bargain as they survived two straight Game 7s on the way to their 17th NBA title.
In the past eight years, the three Boston sports teams have won six championships. During that time, Boston sports fans went from Cubs-esque sufferers to obnoxious whiners. An improbable Patriots dynasty (where would the team be if Mo Lewis hadn’t wrecked Drew Bledsoe?) gets compounded by an unbelievable pennant victory by the Red Sox, and suddenly every bandwagon sports fan in the country discovers some obscure tie to the Boston area.
Everyone knows the Red Sox have their share of real, die-hard fans, but they’ve been overtaken by everyone else hopping on the bandwagon. “Red Sox Nation” isn’t a widespread show of loyalty; it’s just the sports equivalent of Beanie Babies — a dumb fad that will hopefully die away in a few years.
Just look at the numbers: In 2004, the year that they won their first championship, the Red Sox averaged 36,000 fans on the road. That was good for fourth in the majors. In 2008, following two World Series titles, the Red Sox pulled in nearly 2,400 more fans for their road games. In contrast, the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t see a substantial increase in road attendance in the two years following their Series victory in 2006.
I don’t know whether it’s the constant coverage on ESPN, the country’s obsession with Bill Simmons or the soap opera that was Manny Ramirez, but whatever it is, the Red Sox do a better job of attracting bandwagon fans than any other Major League team.
And the Red Sox aren’t the only Boston sports team with fair-weather fans. The Celtics finished 21st in total attendance in 2006-’07 but are now ranked first after last season’s championship run, an increase of nearly 1,500 more fans per game. In comparison, the Miami Heat failed to show an attendance improvement after winning their Finals trophy, even with the star power of Shaq and D-Wade.
Basically, being a Boston sports fan in the past decade has been like winning the lottery. All of the benefits, none of the investment. A freak injury transformed a mediocre franchise into a dynasty, an absurd comeback turned a cursed group of losers into the world’s most overplayed underdog story, and an ex-Celtic (Minnesota’s former GM, Kevin McHale) engineered the NBA’s biggest single-season improvement by trading away one of the best players ever for 30 cents on the dollar.
So forgive me if I’m getting my jollies in from seeing the Patriots miss the playoffs with an 11-5 record, watching the Celtics go 4-7 after starting the season 27-2 and rooting for the Yankees to match the auto industry bailout with their offseason spending spree.
Misery loves company.
Karan Arakotaram is a junior in
Ezra Stiles College.