fb-pixel Skip to main content

As Red Sox sputter to an end, fans take it in stride

Fenway faithful still find the fun, call the games relaxing

Bobby Dionne (left) of Mapleville, R.I., watched as his girlfriend Betty Ann Conroy, Scotland, Conn., sang “Sweet Caroline” with Tori Gualtieri, of Norwich, Conn.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

It was only the third inning, and the Red Sox already trailed 6-0. As the Orioles pounded out hit after hit, the home team went down meekly, as if the players had somewhere else they would rather be.

It was another dismaying loss in a lost season, a stunning collapse from championship glory to lonely cellar.

Once, this dismal scene during a recent game at Fenway would have worked Red Sox fans into a froth and fueled angry diatribes against the cruel fates. But times have changed. Thanks to three World Series victories in the past decade, even diehard baseball fans say they are taking the team’s current struggles in stride.

Advertisement



The Fenway crowd appeared to shrug off the lopsided defeat as an afterthought.

For many at the park for the day game, the action on the field seemed like a mere backdrop to a picturesque late-summer afternoon. A crowd that last fall lived and died with every pitch now watched with glazed eyes, basking in the warm sun and the afterglow of last year’s championship.

Longtime fan Gary Sargent, 66, of Winchendon enjoyed a hot dog at Fenway Park.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

“It’s disappointing, but hey, you can’t win every year,” said Gary Sargent, who at 66 has suffered his share of Red Sox heartache. “And just being here, on a day like this, is enough.”

That acceptance, while grudging, has brought a kind of liberation, an unfamiliar experience for the famously restless fan base.

“After last year, you can just relax,” said Earl Shores, 58, doing just that as he enjoyed a hot dog in the picnic table area.

Of course, the team’s miserable showing is what robbed the season of any drama, and even resigned fans said they harbored some frustration. Many second-guessed management for entrusting young players with key roles, and for assuming veterans would be able to match their performance from the year before.

Advertisement



Several fans called on Red Sox principal owner John Henry, who also owns The Boston Globe, to spend aggressively for top players this offseason. And while fans said they had thrown in the towel for this year, it was still hard to watch the team play so poorly night after night.

“They had potential, but at this point I think they’ve given up,” said Marie Haggard, a longtime fan from Cambridge. “But I’m a fan, whether they are up or down.”

With the Sox long out of contention, the stands were far from full, making the game feel almost like an exhibition. Fans draped their legs over the seats in front of them and used empty seats as makeshift tables.

From the bullpen, an Orioles pitcher casually chatted with a young Red Sox fan, and families roamed the concourse in search of food and souvenirs. It was 8-0 by then, after all. (Long after many fans had found the exit, the Sox rallied to make it respectable, losing 10-6).

In the bleachers, fans chatted over drinks and sent text messages. It was a day to leave everything behind, a day when the score seemed beside the point.

“Everyone’s just hanging out,” said Brian Underwood, 26, smiling as he watched his son, 3-year-old Gage, wolf down his popcorn. “It’s a lot more relaxed than usual.”

Underwood said he had high hopes entering the season, but had long since accepted it was not the team’s year. The 2013 championship made moving on a lot easier, he said.

Advertisement



And with little demand for tickets, prices had bottomed out. Underwood said he scored four bleacher seats for just $7 each.

Other fans jumped at the chance to spend the day at the ballpark. Many were heartened by the team’s young players, especially outfielder Mookie Betts and catcher Christian Vazquez.

“They give you hope,” said Judy Totman, a retiree from Maine who took the train down for the game. “I don’t care if they are in last place, I just want the rookies to do well.”

Around the stadium, even slight signs of aggravation were hard to find.

“You’ve got to breathe at some point,” Peter Donnelly, 34, of West Roxbury quipped as his two young sons ran laps around him.

Complaining about the team this year seemed greedy, Donnelly said. Fans never like to see their team do poorly, but needed to keep the down year in context.

“Name another team that has won as much,” he said. “We’re getting spoiled.”

At the rooftop bar in the outfield, a group of friends toasted their day off. They agreed the championships created a far happier fan base, and acknowledged that some complacency may have set in.

“We’ve lost our edge a little bit, but that’s not a completely bad thing,” said Peter Connor-Levesque, 42.

Fans cheered at a game against the Orioles at Fenway Park.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.