I’ve had a major case of writer’s block lately and was worrying it would lead to my shutting down the blog for a while so I could shake myself out of it.
Then I read this piece by Tony Massarotti today and suddenly was terribly inspired to write again.
My least favorite trait of many of the writers in the Boston sports community is their desire to treat the fans like their own little puppets. Instead of straight reporting or even interesting writing, too many of them rely on the old “If you do ‘this’ it makes you a bad/good fan” crap. It absolutely infuriated the majority of the writers who covered the Sox that the fans loved Manny Ramirez while he was here. There was story after story about how ‘stupid’ the fans were to support him and how ‘gullible’ we all were that we were happy he was on the team. I was one of those fans. Until the day he was traded, my support was behind Manny. It broke my baseball heart the way he left the team, although I do think it was time for him to go. But I still don’t believe that how things ended up should have a negative effect on the entire time he was with Boston. Unfortunately, Manny’s last (half) season with the Sox made all the Red Sox beat writers puff up their chests and say “I told you so”. Massarotti, like all of them, has gotten in his jabs at Manny and the fans over the years. So it wasn’t really a surprise to read the opening to his piece on Manny today:
Presumably, you tolerated Manny Ramirez because you had to. You needed him. So you put up with the childishness and the selfishness, the immaturity and irresponsibility. And the Red Sox won a pair of World Series because of it
We sure are martyrs in Red Sox Nation. Imagine “tolerating” Manny! I mean, really, what did he ever do for the team? (Oh, wait, Massarotti actually answers that question in his last sentence there!)
Anyone who followed the Sox during Manny’s time with the team who says Manny wasn’t fun to watch is a flat-out liar. I have a dear friend who lives in New Zealand. New freaking Zealand, who was in Baltimore, wearing his #24 Red Sox jersey, to see Manny’s 500th home run. My father, then in his mid-sixties, sat in the bleachers, in the rain on Opening Day in 2001 to watch Manny in his first game at Fenway in a Sox uniform. In 2004 my, then, 3 year-old niece would cite Manny as one of her favorite players and had a Manny t-shirt she would constantly wear. I once sat in the left field grandstand seats (where I sat often when Manny was with the team because watching Manny in the outfield was as much fun as any other aspect of the game) and watched Manny do the wave with the fans in the stands.
Manny certainly did things that either baffled or annoyed you but, prior to the end of his time in Boston, he never seemed to do anything malicious. Regardless of that, the writers tried their damnedest to get us riled up if Manny showed up “late” for Spring Training or if he refused to talk to the media. Tim McCarver would have you believe that going into the outfield with a water bottle in your pocket was an abomination on the game of baseball and many is the writer or broadcaster who wanted us to hate Manny because he didn’t act like Tim Wakefield with the fans or in the community. No fan will tell you that Manny was perfect but most fans will tell you that he certainly didn’t deserve “hatred”.
So here’s the thing about what Massarotti wrote: He’s advocating the fans cheering for Manny on Friday night. Don’t get too excited, though. He only thinks the fans should cheer him because we cheered him while he was here.
As for you, you have your own choice to make. Most of you cheered Ramirez when he was in Boston. To boo him now would be both cowardly and fraudulent. You knew what Manny was about then just as surely as you know what he is about now, and you chose to live with it. You chose to look the other way. You chose to celebrate the man’s talents more than criticize his flaws, and you endorsed productivity at almost all costs.
Again, taking away 2008 because his actions were so un-Manny like (Openly fighting with Youk…pushing Jack McCormick…neither of these things came close to anything else that fell under the “Manny being Manny” antics that fans witnessed and “looked the other way”), someone needs to tell me what Manny did that was so terrible that WHILE HE WAS WITH THE TEAM would have or should have made the fans dislike him?
I agree with Massarotti that fans shouldn’t boo Manny. While I’m not entirely comfortable at the idea of a Pedro or Nomar-like reception for him, I don’t want to see him get mercilessly booed either. But, unlike Massarotti, I don’t think the fans who supported him while he was in Boston are obligated to still support him. The gist of the article is “If you were stupid enough to cheer for him while he was here, you’re a hypocrite if you boo him on Friday”.
If cheering for possibly the best hitter I will ever see take the plate at Fenway Park makes me a blind fan, order me up a seeing-eye dog today. Anyone who suggests that fans shouldn’t have supported Manny during his time on their team is an idiot, plain and simple. I get why people wouldn’t want to cheer Manny this weekend (and, as Massarotti notes, he got plenty of cheers while he was here). I think fans were terribly hurt that after all the support he did turn into “evil” Manny to ensure his release from the team. Still, again and again I will say it, it doesn’t change what he did while he was here. Now, I don’t think Massarotti is an idiot, I just think he’s jealous of the support Manny always got and the Dodgers coming to Boston just gives him another excuse to pull out all the old “fans are stupid/hypocritical/your favorite insult here” crap. That and he needed something to write and it’s pretty easy to pull another “this is why you should have hated Manny” piece out of your ass.
I passed on multiple opportunities to go to Fenway this weekend because my Manny feelings are so muddled. I know I couldn’t bear to be in the park if the majority of fans began booing him but I also know that hearing the fans giving him the heroes welcome this soon after 2008 would be a tough one to deal with as well. Staying home and dealing with my feelings myself is the best decision for me. For you it might be different. Don’t let Tony Massarotti or anyone else tell you how you should feel or react.