Last night, I shared a link to Jonathan Mahler’s feature in the Times on the Brothers Stein. There was a pretty “big” quote therein from Hank Steinbrenner that I wanted to mull, to be sure that I thought about what I wanted to write on it, before sharing a knee-jerk reaction. Since then, the quote has received quite a bit of exposure. So, I thought I better get my two cents in, now, before it really becomes old news. Here’s the quote from Hank:
“Red Sox Nation?” Hank says. “What a bunch of [expletive] that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans. Go anywhere in America and you won’t see Red Sox hats and jackets, you’ll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We’re going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order.”
First, the term “Red Sox Nation” goes back to Nathan Cobb. Via Gordon Edes:
[Q:] When was the term Red Sox Nation first used? I tell friends that it was years ago maybe the 60′s or 70′s in various newspaper articles to describe Red sox fans. My friends think it’s only in the last couple of years because NESN has used it as a marketing thing. I say it’s way back. Who’s right? Jack, Rutland, Vt.
A: Jack, my colleague Dan Shaughnessy said it was first used by a Globe reporter not in sports, Nathan Cobb, back in 1986, but Shaughnessy gave it life and really was the person who made it part of our lexicon by his frequent use of the term from 1990 on. He even wrote a book with “Dispatches from Red Sox Nation” as part of the title.
This ties into what Wikipedia has on the topic:
Red Sox Nation refers to the fans of the Boston Red Sox. The phrase “Red Sox Nation” was first coined by Boston Globe feature writer Nathan Cobb in an October 20, 1986 article about split allegiances among fans in Connecticut during the 1986 World Series between Red Sox and the New York Mets. The phrase was popularized by the 1996 book At Fenway: Dispatches From Red Sox Nation (ISBN 0-517-70104-9) by Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy.
Therefore, the “thought” of “Red Sox Nation” goes back to Cobb in 1986 and the “movement” of getting it out there was assisted by Shaughnessy in 1996. Sure, ESPN and the Red Sox have helped to continue the push of the term, but, they did not start it. Further, there is some fact behind this notion of the existence of a Red Sox Nation. Via Paul White, on August 22nd of last year:
Red Sox Nation began growing in 2003, when the team reached the playoffs for the first time since 1999. It exploded after the Sox won the World Series in 2004 for the first time since 1918, after surprising the Yankees in the American League Championship Series by becoming the first baseball team to win a seven-game series after losing the first three games.
The Red Sox returned to the playoffs in 2005 and led the majors in road attendance — topping the Yankees, baseball’s top road draw from 2001 to 2004. The Red Sox fell to third place in the AL East last year, missed the playoffs and saw the Yankees reclaim the road attendance crown.
This year the Sox are surging again and averaging 39,136 in road attendance. That’s about 1,300 more than the Yankees draw in road games, and nearly 2,000 more than the Sox drew in road games in 2005, when they were the defending World Series champs.
In the end, Hank is not 100% correct with his statement that “Red Sox Nation” was “a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN” and that it really doesn’t exist.
In any event, the bigger fish in this pond is the fact that Hank made the comment in the first place. The Yankee fanboy in me is juiced by this battle cry from Hank. However, to be fair and objective, had Larry Lucchino (or some other Red Sox official) made this comment about the Yankees, I would be loading for bear right about now. So, in that sense, since there is a Red Sox Nation, perhaps giving them this chum to chew on was not the brightest idea in Hank’s bag of tricks?
If Hank wants to “restore the universe to order,” his plan should be to (1) finish first in the A.L. East; and (2) win the ALDS – since the Yankees have not done the former since 2006 and the latter since 2004. After reaching these two goals, then it’s time to start worrying about the Red Sox, etc.