I love snubbing all of the bandwagon Red Sox fans here at Harvard that have thrown their hometown allegiance out the windown this October. But I have to admit it—although I’m technically from Boston, I’m one of the original fakes.
So what if I was there slapping fives with 50 guys named Sully in Kenmore Square after the Pats upset the Rams in 2002, shirtless and in 20 degree weather; or that I drove 90-plus all the way back from New York after Game 7 last Thursday to get back in time for class; or that I ended up in the hospital after running the Boston Marathon last April; or even that I can spell the Red Sox’s Doug Mientkiewicz’s last name off the top of my head (see, I just did it)? Because if city of origin is the true litmus test of fan-dom, then I have to call myself out.Though I graduated from high school in Boston—well, Brookline, but close enough—I actually grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. before moving to Boston after my freshman year of high school. Back then, I wasn’t the self-proclaimed sports fanatic that I am now, but I wasn’t completely on the sidelines. My family had season tickets to the Wizards, Redskins and Orioles, and I remember swearing in sixth grade English after the Orioles were robbed by a freakin’ Yankees fan in the 1996 ALCS.
But I can’t say that I ever really followed any of those teams. I went to about five Orioles games every year, but I only had a vague idea of where they were in the standings. Besides, it’s a little depressing when the owners of our NBA franchise came just a few thousand votes away from switching the team name “Bullets”—which they said was a “violent stereotype”-—to the Sea Dogs before settling on Wizards (though I still maintain that the Bullets is a better name than the Wizards). That was the biggest controversy we D.C. sports fans had, and it turned off my would-be fan-dom.
But my move to Boston threw my former passivity to the wayside. When I arrived in frosty New England, I knew the mid-high school transition was going to be hard. But I was going to be playing football, so I assumed it wouldn’t be too tough to meet people. After all, everyone turned up to the Friday night games back in D.C., even though the football team was being outscored by the men’s soccer squad heading into its final game of the year. How much worse could the Brookline team get?
Wish I’d never asked. To put it simply, we sucked. Big time. We won five of 33 games in the three years I played for Brookline. Our coach got fired after my senior year because his Parkinsons had gotten so bad he was having trouble calling plays. To make matters even more depressing, I was about the worst player on a team which suited up just 28 guys for our last game of the season junior year.
Needless to say, this athletic association didn’t exactly elevate my Big Man on Campus status in a way that I first thought it would. Neither did playing lacrosse—a sport I was actually decent at—since we had to listen to a coach who once spent an entire practice arguing with five guys about the benefits of a Marxist-Leninist style of socialism and led us to a four-win season my junior year. Being a jock wasn’t exactly a ticket to social acceptance. To say the least, it took me a while to find friends.
But though high school athletics didn’t exactly have a cult following at Brookline, I quickly found that all of the professional teams did in a way that I never thought possible. After all, Brookline was in the center of the Boston sports world. Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein went to my high school; Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Sox president Larry Lucchino both call the town home; and the neighborhood is so close to Fenway Park, that I could hear Bruce Springsteen from my house when he played there last summer.
So I got sucked in. Following Boston sports picked up the slack, and made it so that I could finally fit in, even if I wasn’t a full convert until senior year (I actually rooted for the Raiders in the Snow Bowl against the Pats). It took me a while, but by senior year I had shed what little loyalty I had had to my native city. Until that point, I hadn’t felt a full part of the Brookline or Boston communities. Though I had immersed myself in its athletic teams, student government, local hospitals and other college application-building exploits, I wasn’t a real Bostonian among my new friends till I jumped on the Beantown sports bandwagon.
So yeah, I’ll admit it. I should be pulling for Orioles phenom Miguel Tejada to win the MVP this year instead of BoSox hero David Ortiz . I should have shouted about how awesome it was to have Michael Jordan playing for the Washington Wizards instead of making fun of him. I should have rejoiced when the D.C. United soccer team scored Freddy Adu instead of heading to Foxboro to see the New England Revolution’s championship game. I should have done all of these things if I were a real homegrown sports fan, and given up hope on ever becoming a part of my new hometown. But here I am, more zealous than many natives are, and I like it this way.
So to my fellow ‘Massholes”: the next time you and a couple of your schoolmates from North Carolina, Illinois or Wyoming start arguing whether Super Bowl XXXVI or XXXVIII was better, go ahead and call him out for the fake fan that he is. Because it’s not about the passion or knowledge that you bring to your team—its about where your roots are. They may live here temporarily and follow Boston with more enthusiasm and spirit than you could dream of, but dammit, they shouldn’t be allowed to. We were here first—even if I showed up late.
Evan R. Johnson ’06, an Associate Sports Chair, is a History concentrator in Dunster House. He’ll always be a real Boston fan to us.