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Success isn’t everything

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Why Boston fans aren’t getting the full experience

MLB: World Series-Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers
Oct 28, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Boston Red Sox players celebrate after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a scene near the end of the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix film wherein the evil Lord Voldemort is attempting to possess the titular Harry Potter in an attempt to force Professor Dumbledore into killing Harry. But the evil, powerful Voldemort can’t possess him, because Harry is too different from Voldemort. Harry says, “You’re the weak one. You’ll never know love. Or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.”

This interaction has always stuck with me. Voldemort seemingly has everything. He has power, followers, control. He is skilled and he can bend almost anyone to his will. Yet, Harry feels sorry for him because Voldemort is devoid of what is actually most important.

The Boston Red Sox won the World Series on Sunday, with a customary parade following this week. While the New York Yankees have been called “The Evil Empire” and are being referred to as such again, the Red Sox have been far more villainous of late. In the last 15 seasons, the Yankees have been to one world series—2009, which they won. However, the Red Sox have been to and won four World Series in that time frame—2004, 2007, 2013, and now 2018. In 2007, Boston defeated the Colorado Rockies, who have never won a title. And in 2018, Boston defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are 30 years removed from their most recent title.

Every team in baseball would love to be the Red Sox. They put together one of the all-time best teams in 2018 and won a World Series for their troubles. That demands respect. And every set of fans would love to celebrate a World Series win every four or so years for a decade and a half.

Or...would they? Should they? The answer isn’t so clear.

Objectively, championships are better than non-championships. Winning seasons are better than losing seasons. Ask a Cleveland Browns fan if they would have liked their franchise to be the New England Patriots rather than the, er, Browns that they are and I’m sure they would happily make that particular time-traveling deal with the devil.

Yet that dovetails with the question of whether non-Boston fans would or should desire to be Boston fans. The Red Sox, as mentioned, have won four World Series in the last 15 years. The Patriots have been to eight Super Bowls since 2001 and have won six of them. The Celtics have been to two NBA Finals since the 2007-2008 season, winning that first one and appearing in another three conference finals. The Bruins have played in the postseason on 12 occasions since the turn of the millennium, appearing in two Stanley Cups and winning one (in the 2010-2011 season)

Some of you, if asked whether or not you would rather have that abundance of sports excellence than whatever lesser success you have currently experienced, would without question answer in the affirmative. At least one of those is likely to reply to this article with a snarky GIF or passive aggressive comment about my intelligence. I certainly don’t think that wanting to experience that much sporting success is a bad thing. To want that for your teams and, let’s be honest, for yourself, is a natural and respectable position.

However, like Harry in his rebuke of Voldemort, part of me actually feels sorry for Boston sports fans. Championships are fun precisely because they are rare and great achievements. The fact of sports is that many teams go years between championships, and some are never truly in a position to win one. This week is Boston’s 12th championship parade in a two-decade span.

For Boston fans right now, and really ever since the special Red Sox cursebusting team of 2004, championships are fun events, but they have long since lost the ability to be a transformational experience. Maybe some would argue otherwise. I would politefully refuse.

I experienced the 2014 Wild Card Game at Kauffman Stadium. It was the first playoff appearance by the Kansas City Royals in 29 years. The feeling in that stadium was palpably electric. Through the 2015 World Series, the Royals weren’t just a baseball team. They weren’t just playing some game. For the city of Kansas City, those Royals teams were a once-in-a-lifetime kind of special.

Being a Royals fan before sucked. Being a Royals fan since has, ah, mostly sucked. Still, that made those years something truly remarkable. And it seems like the Kansas City Chiefs are on the upswing, in a similar vein to what the Royals did. The Chiefs have won a single playoff game since I was a toddler. For the first time in decades, they have their quarterback of the future. If the Chiefs get to the next level, excitement will reach a fever pitch.

Yes, Boston fans have certainly been blessed. But so have Kansas City fans—perhaps even more. For me, at least. And maybe for you, too.