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In the past several months, Boston sports fans have seen some of their favorite players leave town for other franchises. Jonathan Papelbon bolted for a sack of cash in Philadelphia and Glen “Big Baby” Davis was sent to Orlando in a sign-and-trade. What initially struck me about both of these events was the lack of buzz about them. Papelbon was the greatest closer in Red Sox history. He was a staple of the organization. He won a ring. He was crazy! Big Baby also won a championship and was known for his antics. He was overweight in a lovable type of way!
Nevertheless, there seemed to be relatively little reaction to the departure of these players, who were both significant parts of their teams. But it wasn’t until three things happened that I started thinking about this–the retirement of Tim Wakefield, the retirement of Jason Varitek, and the trade rumors about Rajon Rondo.
Transactions run amuck in major league sports. The days of players remaining on the same time are long gone. There are websites devoted entirely to tracking these moves. Yet, we still are as passionate about our favorite teams as ever. Something about that seems off putting. So it begs the question: Is it worthwhile to invest so much time into rooting for recycled laundry?
How practical is it to get invested in a sports team when rosters can very possibly change overnight? It seems almost ridiculous to root for your favorite player when he can very well end up with a rival team. The Rondo situation comes to mind. While basketball-wise it may make perfect sense to trade Rondo, one thing bothers me.
He’s our point guard. The one that helped win a championship. He’s sassy and can’t shoot, but he’s one of our guys!
When we see these trade machine deals, it’s all just swapping pieces of one team to another. How can you remember an era, when the core of your team gets traded four or five times over? It just seems silly. Back in the day, players played for one team for 10+ years. Now that’s such an exception. Look at the MLB right now. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Chipper Jones…who else could you realistically expect to play for only one team?
There is no more our guys or their guys. It’s just those guys who happen to be on our team right now.
Sports has a lot of history. If you’re going to follow a sports team, it’s nice to know there is an identity they’ll be remembered for years down the road. The ‘80s Celtics. The ‘90s Bulls. Compare that to this most recent decade. It’s nearly impossible to remember how teams did in an individual year let alone a decade. Anyone remember how the Brewers did in ’05? Me neither.
Call me nostalgic, but it seems charming to say “Oh, player x! He played for us back in the day and he was great.” It seems awkward to say “Oh, player x! He played for team blank but then signed with team so and so and then got traded to that team and….”.
For me personally, this is why it’s been hard to get invested in the Celtics this year. Why should I root for the core I’ve grown to appreciate when most of them won’t even be on the Celtics next year? Where do my allegiances lie–with the Boston Celtic’s Franchise or Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen? If Allen gets traded to Oklahoma City, am I now obligated to root for the Thunder? People always say that players should play for the name on the front of the shirt and not the back. As fans, however, that makes little sense.
There are so few holdovers left from the 2007 World Series team. How many are left from the last Patriots championship team? Unless you really like a team’s uniform colors, it seems like a waste of time to mindlessly invest time into following a sports team. It seems sheep-like.
Should the Red Sox have invested ridiculous amounts of money in Papelbon, when Andrew Bailey can very likely replicate the same results for almost nothing? Probably not. Is it worth it to keep Rondo, even if it means years of mediocrity for the Celtics? Probably not. But isn’t it more exciting to think “our guys worked hard to win a championship” rather than “after a myriad of trades and free agent signings, a bunch of guys who happen to wear the same team colors won a championship”?
Sports in general have very few possible outcomes. A team can win or it can lose. The margin of victory can be a lot or a little. There’s either a comeback or no comeback. I know that the players themselves don’t care, but I’d like to think that growing appreciation and even attachment to the players on your favorite team is what makes it exciting. That’s hard to do when your team’s starting shortstop is TBD.