Talk to any local sports fan, and they will quickly tell you that there is no middle ground on how one might view the departure of a beloved superstar athlete to another franchise. For those who remember the 2004 Red Sox, you are likely to remember the speedy and much-beloved center fielder for that team, Johnny Damon. Indeed, if you lived here then, you would be hard-pressed not to remember that team of self-described ‘idiots’ who brought a World Series championship to Fenway Park for the first time in a cursed 86 years.
One year later, following the 2005 season, Johnny Damon would leave the Red Sox to join its historic rival, the New York Yankees!
So many long-suffering Red Sox fans had fallen in love with the 2004 World Series champs that Damon’s departure felt more like a betrayal than an off-season, free-agency move. He was quickly vilified for having chosen the supposed ‘evil empire’ over our hometown rough-and-tumble, ‘Cowboy Up’ band of upstarts here in Boston. Now might be a good time for me to admit that I am speaking personally. I vilified him and still hold him in relative disregard compared with his teammates from that year. That said, I know I’m not alone. Many other people from the area share that opinion as well.
Soand all of you Steelers, Browns, Packers, and Jets fans are likely to know what is comingwhat to make of the remarkable success of Tampa Bay’s new quarterback as the team prepares for this Sunday’s Super Bowl?
For those of you who don’t follow professional football, you may not be aware that Tom Brady, he of six Super Bowl victories with the New England Patriots, left Foxboro for the warmer climes of Tampa Bay just this past year. And now, at the age of 43the oldest quarterback ever to do sohe has brought his new team, the Buccaneers, to the Super Bowl to play against the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend.
Even as I write, “you may not be aware that Tom Brady has left” I have a hard time believing it. I would bet that most Scoop readers know this and that those who know are likely to have a strong opinion about it. Again, there is no middle ground on a superstar’s departure. Johnny Damon, Kyrie Irving, Drew Bledsoe, Tyler Seguin, the list is long, and my feelings unequivocal. Except, it would seem, for Tom.
Tom Brady’s success this year has felt different than the departure of some of the previous superstars through Boston sports history. I attribute the difference to this: Brady’s successes over a twenty-year career gave his Boston fans a gift that neither we, nor any other sports fans across the country, are likely ever to see again.
All of which leads me to this question: as sports fans of local teams, who are we rooting for? Where do our loyalties lie? Are we merely rooting for laundry? Does the name on the back of the jersey matter less than the team name across the front? As for me, I am typically rooting for the team and not the player. I wonder about the opposite experience of Johnny Damon; when a star comes to Boston rather than leaving, I forgive them of their past sins and welcome them to town with open arms. When they go, I wonder how hard the door might hit them on the way out. But this weekend, for once, anyway, I will turn back to the past twenty years to justify rooting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I will likely be wearing my Patriots jersey to prove that my allegiance is evidence of my discerning loyalty, rather than an abandonment of my roots as a New England sports fan.
Enjoy the big game if you watch and have a great weekend, everyone. Also, I wanted to offer my sincerest thanks to all of our grandparents and special friends who made today such a special one for our students. Many thanks for joining us on our reimagined day!