There’s a guy I know named Bill who happens to be in possession of large amounts of free time. Bill got lucky in life, defying every expectation ever set for him. Now he wanders from one day to the next, a ship across the placid skin of the Pacific, never spying obligation on the horizon.
So when I found myself with a pair of tickets to the Red Sox Friday home opener but with a conflict that keeps me from being there, Bill was my first logical call. He has absolutely nothing else going on.
“Do you want seats to a root canal?’’ he asked in response. “It’s sure to be more fun.’’
I took that as a no. Moments later, different words, same meaning from a guy named Dan. Another Bill said simply, “Thanks but no.’’ A banker named Errin claimed to have to work, which is a lie because, like I said, he’s a banker. A guy named Jamie said he was holding a golf clinic on hooking.
That’s 0-5, for anyone keeping count, or the typical line for a hometown hitter lately. I normally have to be asking for a raise, not trying to unload Sox tickets, to face this kind of rejection.
My reason for not going? I’m getting an oil change. Or sorting my sock drawer. It doesn’t matter. I just don’t want to sit in the wind-whipped confines of Fenway Park watching a collection of pampered prima donnas courtesy of owners who seem to have lost interest in the game.
Maybe I’m a fair-weather fan, but that fair weather has lasted about half a century. It began with Lonborg, Petrocelli, and Andrews, escalated with Lynn, Rice, and Fisk, and easily survived the World Series drought that ran through the 1990s and a few years on either end.
But this year, it’s different. This year, everything is different. Rather than contrition for last September, we’ve gotten bizarre aggression. Goodbye, Jonathan Papelbon, who always gave it his all. Hello again, surly Josh Beckett, ours to the end of time.
The once creative owners took an injured pitcher as compensation for Theo Epstein, to go along with the injured pitcher as the new closer, to go along with the two-fifths of the starting rotation on long-term injury.
There’s also, of course, the injured $20 million a year left fielder. This seems like more than bad luck.
The first baseman plays with all the passion of a cold Fenway Frank. The catcher is a chronic underperformer. The shortstop, well, they got rid of the shortstop so they could afford to pay the multiple millions owed to everyone else. Ticket prices remain the highest in baseball.
This isn’t about wins and losses. The real problem is there’s no narrative, no story, and beyond the trio of Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Ortiz, precious little charm.
Give us fun misfits; give us nervous rookies. But instead, we’ve got a bunch of sharp edges crunched together in the absurd hope of creating something whole.
None of this bodes well for the famed streak, the 712 consecutive sellouts that began in May 2003 and ran through the darkest nights of last September.
A quick check of redsox.com shows plenty of pairs of tickets for almost every game in April and May, including this weekend.
Sam Kennedy, the Red Sox chief operating officer and as sharp a guy as there is in pro sports, confirmed as much, saying that the team maintained season ticket levels, but is still down 2.7 percent because of individual games.
“We recognize it is very fragile, especially early in the season,’’ Kennedy said of the streak, just 32 games shy of the professional record held by the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers. “We are cautiously optimistic.’’
Caution is smart. Re-signing Papelbon would have been smarter.
It used to be that you’d crow to the world about holding Opening Day tickets. This Friday, though, Fenway suddenly feels like a house of obligation, not of worship.Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.