Just a little note to Jackie MacMullan of the Boston Globe, along with every other writer and radio host and postal carrier and homeless person and whoever else feels the need to chide Sox fans for booing Johnny Damon last night.
It’s called “entertainment”.
For all the importance that we place on sports in society (especially around these here parts), at the end of the day it’s an empty exercise that is merely meant to entertain the masses. To give us an escape from the daily grind and give us something to focus on, or maybe unleash some emotion and elation without serious repercussions to our own relationships and lives. Yes, there are too many people that take sports too seriously, but they’re far more the exception than the rule. As for the rest of us? Those of us who booed Johnny Damon? We were merely playing our roles. Just as “Judas Damon” was playing his.
You cheer the good guys. You boo the bad guys. It’s a simple premise. It’s been that way since the dawn of time really, so why should we change now? If I were Johnny Damon, I would have wanted to have been booed last night. He’s a Yankee. He’s a bad guy now. Which is not to say that Johnny Damon is truly a bad person. He’s not. No one is saying he is. But he left us, he broke our hearts, and he did so in the most dastardly fashion possible, by leaving for our sworn enemy. He deserves to be booed. Booed loudly. And he was. Good for us. We played our part to perfection, as did he, by tipping his cap and acknowledging that it is, in fact, just that: a part.
Objects were not thrown at Johnny Damon. Death threats were not made. Nobody ran on the field and tried to pull a Nancy Kerrigan on one of his knees. It was merely a large group of people playing into the fun of the moment – the fun of the rivalry – by giving him the same treatment we give every other player that dons the pinstripes. In our hearts we still love him, but right now we have to boo him because he is the enemy. It’s no different than an audience booing and hissing the villain in a play when the actor who plays him comes out for curtain call. As an actor, you want that. It means you played your part well.
Okay, I admit it, there are a lot of meatheads here in Boston, and I’m sure somewhere in the stands last night some drunk was screaming things at the Yankees’ centerfielder that were far beyond inappropriate. As much as we’d all like to, we can’t regulate stupidity. But for most people, the booing came with a smile. It’s not that we don’t remember what he did to help us win a World Series. It’s not that we’ve conveniently forgotten all the great plays he’s made. It’s just a simple case of us doing our part to keep one of the most special things in all of sports – the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry – as exciting and entertaining as it can be. If we merely stood and politely applauded every turncoat who jumped sides and joined the dreaded Empire whenever they returned to Fenway, then a Sox-Yankees game would eventually become just another game on the schedule. If we got all warm and cuddly and nostalgic when the traitor dared showed his face in town again, then the magic would disappear. Sox-Yankees is special. If you’ve ever been outside Fenway when the Yankees are in town, you know it. I’m not even talking *inside* the stadium. Just hang around Lansdowne Street for the hour or two before game time. It is unlike anything you’ll experience. It truly is electric. And a major reason it IS that way is because as fans, we make it that way.
I don’t begrudge Johnny Damon for making the decision he made. It’s a lot of money. And while I personally think he’s gonna a little overboard in the press with all his thinly veiled jibes at the Sox front office, I still don’t hate the man. He speaks like he plays, with his heart on his sleeve. But he chose to sign with the bad guys, which means he’s one of them now. So you’ll have to forgive me if I treat him as such.
I cheered you loudly when you were one of us, Johnny. You’ve already been paid for services rendered. Now it’s time to boo you. Deal with it.
It’s a compliment. Really.