The baseball world just witnessed an historical and epic collapse by the team that was favored to win it all in the beginning of the season: the Boston Red Sox. One ESPN.com writer called them arrogant, complacent, and entitled. Others blamed a lack of chemistry for the downfall of this super team. As a Red Sox fan, I find it ironic that they had become the very thing that they and their fans had despised about their opponents. One thing that I continually criticized George Steinbrenner for was for bringing big names together and expecting that they would all get along. The Red Sox did that very thing this year and yet they expected that it would somehow end up different for them. The old adage "pride comes before a fall" has truly been experienced by these 2011 Boston Red Sox.
The great thing about the 2004 and 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox teams was that they were average joes. There was chemistry and camaraderie there that pulled the team together. Their success could not be attributed to a specific person, but everyone working together as a unit, a team. Kevin Millar's "band of idiots" statement seems to have defined the team fairly well.
At the beginning of this season, the Sox went 0-6 to start the season. This powerhouse of a team was looking like a complete failure. At the end of the season, it ended the way that it began. All the talent in the world cannot overcome arrogance, complacency, and entitlement. Just because you think you're entitled to something doesn't mean that you really are. In fact, if you think that you are entitled to something, most people are going to view you as arrogant right off the bat. Championships are earned, they aren't inherited. People don't win because others cower at their magnificence, they win because they invested blood, sweat, and tears into the process.
Curt Schilling was criticized a few weeks ago for saying that he hoped that the Red Sox did not make the playoffs. He did not think that they deserved it, and I can't say that I disagree with him. Mr. Bloody Sock himself can speak from experience. He gave all that he had to help the Sox win.
Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox 2nd baseman and Jacoby Ellsbury were among the team leaders who continued to perform. They actually looked like they wanted to win and were enjoying every moment of playing the game. I have said on more than one occasion that I am a baseball fan. I will watch baseball just for love of the game. I was secretly wishing for the Rays to overtake the Sox in the wild card race this year because I knew that they wanted it more. I would love to see them take out the Rangers and the Yankees and I think that they have what it takes to accomplish just that.
One thing that has turned me off to professional sports is the kind of attitude that these 2011 Boston Red Sox portrayed. But what is the cause of it? Is it that we pay athletes millions of dollars? Is it that it has become job performance rather than love of the game?
This same thing can translate into anything else in life. When what we do is driven more by factors like money or popularity rather than a sheer love and appreciation of what it is that we do, we can find ourselves passionless and complacent. If I were pursuing a career that made me the most money possible, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. Instead, I do what I do because it fulfills me more than a big fat paycheck could. A wise friend told me to find a job that I love so that I wouldn't have to work a day in my life. It would be nice if the things that we loved and were passionate about paid the best, but that's not always the case.
The 2011 Boston Red Sox can teach us a few things. 1) Never believe everything that they write about you. Just because they looked like the best team on paper doesn't mean that they actually were. Sometimes people can say really bad things about you that aren't true and should be ignored. Sometimes people can say really good things about you that if you believe, you might end up in a place of arrogance. 2) Big players and big payroll doesn't mean big dividends. Spending lots of money doesn't mean that you are going to get what you pay for. Sometimes, they younger players who have something to prove will outperform the seasoned players who feel like they've already proven themselves. 3) Never say never. It's easy to disdain certain things, but it's essential to never say that you would never become those things. That statement alone is usually an on-ramp to the highway towards contradiction. The Red Sox always complained about the Yankees and they have begun to take the exact form that they hated. Don't ever say that you would never be "those guys."
Am I disappointed at the 2011 season? Of course I am. But if there are lessons learned, then it was worth it. If they turn around and underperform next year the way that they did this year, than it was all in vain. Great losses can afford some benefit when there are lessons learned through them. If we learn from what we lose, than the losses aren't in vain. Words to live by.
I won't say that I'll never be like them. I think that I know better than that. I hope that the minute that I began to resemble anything like the arrogant, complacent, and entitled Red Sox that someone who cares for me lets me know. Friends don't let friends become the very thing they abhor. You can quote me on that! Go Rays