Bob Ryan

Patriots and Red Sox are testing their fans’ loyalty

Boston, MA - 9-5-2019 - Injured Red Sox starting pitchers David Price (left) and Chris Sale (center) go back into the dugout following the singing of the national anthem before the game. The Boston Red Sox hosted the Minnesota Twins in a regular season MLB baseball game at Fenway Park. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
Jm Davis/globe staff
The Red Sox headed in a downward direction after hitting the top in 2018.

Sometimes being a fan can get a bit complicated.

Oh, I’m sure some of you are saying, “What’s he know about being a fan? Isn’t he one of those snooty writers? Aren’t they supposed to be coldly detached, utterly uninterested in who wins and loses and interested only in the story?”

That may be true of some in my profession. OK, who am I kidding? That’s true of a lot of people in my profession. If that detachment viewpoint works for them, fine. What’s true about coaching is also true about writing. You must be true to your personality. Players know when coaches are faking it. Readers know when writers are faking it.


I have been presenting myself in front of Globe readers for more than 50 years, and never once have I hidden the unalterable fact that for me, at the root of it all, I love sport for its own sake. A lot of writers say that it’s all about people. I say absent the games, who would care about these people? For me, the games come first.

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All right, where were we? Now I remember.

It just so happens that two of our local professional sports teams are in the uncomfortable process of testing our fandom. The Red Sox are in our thoughts because by the lofty standards they have established, they have turned the 2019 season into a complete mess. The Patriots are in our thoughts because, not for the first time, they have introduced what we will politely call a controversially troubled player into the mix.

From what I gather, a great many Red Sox fans are truly angry about what they’ve experienced during the 2019 season. 2018 was a joyride. The team practically went wire to wire en route to an American League East crown, and it rolled through the postseason with an 11-3 record on its way to winning the World Series.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made a decision to throw lots of John Henry dollars, and plenty of years, at a trio of pitchers with well-documented health issues. We all know how that has worked out.


Closer Craig Kimbrel was allowed to depart. Then manager Alex Cora and pitching coach Dana LeVangie decided to go with a very reduced workload for the proposed rotation pitchers during spring training. We all know how that worked out.

Dombrowski’s judgment was questioned when he gave World Series MVP Steve Pearce a $6 million, one-year contract. Pearce has missed practically the entire season because of injury. That is bad luck. At one point the Sox were well-situated to earn a wild-card slot, but an eight-game losing streak KO’d that possibility. So, yes, I am disappointed.

That’s all; disappointed. I say that from the perspective of someone who has had four season tickets in Section 19 since 1991. I wanted more, of course. Surely, I expected more. But come on, it’s not like we deserve good fortune more than any other set of fans. Things happen.

I’m not greedy. The Red Sox have given their fans countless great moments and memories since the 2003 season. We will all forever relish the memories from 2004 (hi there, Dave Roberts, Bill Mueller, and Big Papi).

Both 2013 and 2018 were joyrides. We’re so overrun with success that we even have a half-forgotten, overlooked middle child of a championship team called 2007.


Winning it all isn’t easy. A lot of very good teams don’t win, the 2003 Red Sox being Exhibit A.

It would be nice if this superb Patriots run had been smooth and uncluttered with “yeah, buts” and things that need to be swatted away. But that’s not the case.

Spygate did happen, and it gave the franchise a negative image and soured large swaths of American sport fans. Contrary to what many in New England think, the millions of Patriot haters out there don’t just dislike the team because it wins too much. It’s because they believe the Patriots don’t always play by the rules.

Deflategate was a farce. It was utter nonsense. Had it been any other team, the whole thing would have been settled by lunchtime the day after that AFC Championship game. But this was the chance for the other 31 owners to punish the Patriots for their transgressions, real or imagined.

The next issue is whom the Patriots have done it with. Would that it were exclusively a story of the Bradys, the Bruschis, the (Troy) Browns, the McGinests, the McCourtys (plural), the Wilforks, and the Edelmans of the world. Easy to root for those people. But Patriots fans have also been asked to hold their noses while cheering for the Dillons, Mosses, and now (Antonio) Browns.

Aaron Hernandez? That’s another matter. We know he was a first-rounder dropping to the fourth because of many off-the-field issues, but no one could have extrapolated his deviance into multiple murders. But the outside world lumps him in with the other Patriot negatives, which is understandable.

Now we have Antonio Brown. Here is a top-of-the-line talent given away for third- and fifth-round picks by one team and let loose before playing a game by another because he was deemed more trouble than he’s worth.

That’s unrootable enough.

The current charges of sexual assault and rape are under investigation. It might turn out that he is innocent of these charges. But anyone preparing to cheer for Brown as a Patriots receiver should make an effort to locate online the astonishingly profane and demented text messages he sent the accuser. If Bob Kraft has not seen them, someone must shove them under his nose. And if he already has seen them, and feels it’s OK to have such an individual on his team, I am truly appalled.

I’m not going to root against the Patriots. But if that guy is on the team, I hope he drops every pass. I want to win, but not by any means necessary.

Bob Ryan’s column appears regularly in the Globe. He can be reached at