While I’m sure Tuesday’s opening ceremonies in Boston were a blast for Red Sox players and fans alike, I thought the coronation was just a bit overplayed (what, no members of the New England Revolution to help raise the World Series banner?) — though I did enjoy all the speculation over whether or not Eric Gagne would get the nod to toss out the first ball instead of Bill Buckner. The Providence Journal’s Sean McAdam found the scene a little more distasteful than I did, however. While crediting the trio of Henry, Lucchino and Werner with “accomplishing in a half-dozen years what Tom Yawkey could not in more than 50”, the columnist is quick to bemoan “the self-aggrandizing, over-the-top displays that have become a little too common of late.”
Once a throwaway phrase coined by a Boston sportswriter, œRed Sox Nation has become an insufferable marketing gimmick, the point of which is to illustrate the team™s vast popularity. Of course, no one beyond Hank Steinbrenner would doubt the team™s immense following. The Sox last year outdrew every team in baseball, their TV ratings dwarf those of other clubs and they have become pop cultural touchstones.
Expanding the brand is one thing; relentlessly harping on the team™s appeal is quite another.
(It should be pointed out this was not the most egregious co-opting of the Red Sox Nation concept. That came last month when the Henry and Lucchino had Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer swear in broadcaster Jerry Remy as the make-believe president of a nonexistent fan club).
The decision to invite Bill Buckner to throw out the first pitch was similarly misguided, or at the very least, ill-timed.
If the Sox were looking for closure with Buckner, the time to achieve that would have been during the 2005 ceremony, when the Sox were looking to put to rest all the disappointments and close calls that haunted the franchise for decades.
Moreover, the invite wrongfully assumed that Buckner and Red Sox fans still had some unresolved issues to resolve. In point of fact, fans had already offered absolution for his Game Six error on Opening Day of 1990, when Buckner returned for a second stint with the Sox and was welcomed with a long ovation.
To think that Buckner was, until Tuesday, regarded by Sox fans as some sort of villain is to display an ignorance of the very fans they otherwise venerate. Talk about a tin ear.
Things really went off the track, however, in the middle of the eighth inning when the team unveiled a Neil Diamond video. Diamond™s œSweet Caroline, of course, has become the team™s unofficial anthem and the idea of having him perform it ” rather than use the recorded version ” was a natural.
But it became painfully obvious that the chief reason for Diamond™s video was to promote a concert date at Fenway later this summer. And when Werner was shown raising his arms and swaying to the music, the thing became laughable.
The Tuesday follies came hard on the heels of the team™s decision to auction some of its Green Monster seats to the highest bidders, with only a portion earmarked for charity. Some will contend that owners are merely taking advantage of supply and demand. But surely, with the highest ticket prices in the game and a consecutive sellout streak that dates back several seasons, the Sox don™t need to gouge their loyal fan base. Effectively sold out for the season, the move smacked of greed, which is hardly becoming of the group.