Big Papi’s absence due to his sore right heel solidifies the only thing we know for sure about this Red Sox team: its opening day roster will be the most haphazard the team has had since the Fenway Sports Group took over in February of 2002.
Or, at least, seemingly the most disorganized roster since the almost-magical 2003 season. That team seemed solidified now that we can look back and reflect. But the likes of Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller, and Big Papi were unknowns, cast-off by their previous teams and given a shot at redemption by the Red Sox—not unlike Johnny Gomes, Stephen Drew, and Mike Napoli.
Perhaps Big Papi’s injury is the final cue Sox fans needed: this isn’t a team your rich older cousin will take his clients to go see. This is the team we’ve secretly desired all along, ever since we won it all in ’04.
The most beloved teams in a given city is very much a cultural occurrence. The Pittsburg Steelers, win or lose, must be the most physical team, or their fans will not love them as much as past teams; The Lakers must be flashy, and the Yankees must walk and talk with class and confidence. The best and most beloved teams seem to always reflect their respective fan-bases.
We like the Patriots because they win, but we love them because of their motto: next man up. We love these recent Bruins teams because they play hockey the way it’s supposed to be played, the way it was played when we were members of the original six: play with purpose, be physical, and play for your teammates. This Celtics team confused us before Rondo went down; it had the talent but not the chemistry, it had the individual work ethic but the team lacked a cooperative identity. Then Rondo went down, everyone had to step up or the ship would sink, and suddenly the Celtics moved the ball the way they did in 2008 and in the 1980’s. A city’s team should feed from its fans’ identities and from the franchise’s history.
We like our Sox team to be the underdog. That’s how it always used to be, and that’s how our favorite teams—the 03’ and 04’ Red Sox—played the game. We had to be scrappier, smarter, luckier, and, when the moment called for it, our most talented members had to be at their best. The Sox are back. Let’s just hope the W’s are back, too.