People hate Boston. This is a fact of life. If you’re not actually from New England, chances are you’re not a fan.
Even I, growing up in Maine, wasn’t thoroughly excited when some summering Massholes would wander into my Dunkin’ Donuts for their caffeine fix. Us country folk weren’t necessarily fond of them city types, even if we did all cheer for the same teams.
But once you leave the greater New England area, everyone just lumps you into Boston. When I head to the local watering hole down the street, they call me “Boston.” I don’t have a thick accent, I’m not Irish (though I am quite pale) and I don’t shove my New England fandom down peoples’ throats like some of my fellow Boston cohorts do. But I’m Boston nonetheless. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
I’ve always gone out of my way to make people like me and, frankly, I feel I’ve done a pretty damn good job of it. But ever since leaving the cozy womb of Maine I’ve learned that my region is not the most well-liked in the continental United States. It’s a debilitating disease called Boston Hate.
Heading down South to JMU in 2002, I got my first taste of Boston Hate. Luckily, I had a fellow Boston fan living across the hall so I didn’t have to go it alone. The Celtics were Eastern Conference runners-up, the Sox were building the team that would shock the world two years later and the Pats were the defending champs. My weathered Sox cap was met with muted scorn from local ‘Skins fans, but the Hate hadn’t fully formulated yet.
By 2006, I was in Philadelphia. The Hate was festering. Philly is well-known for its…vocal fans and when they see an outsider’s hat, their heads nearly explode. In a way, I feel Philadelphia was practice for what came next. I feel fortunate for weathering The Hate in Philly or I may not have been prepared for the Hatestorm that awaited me on the other side of the country.
Los Angeles is not necessarily known for its diehard fans. Angels are told when to clap. Lakers celebrities show up to their courtside seats in the second quarter. The city’s NFL team gets no support. But when it comes to the true fans; holy crap, are they true.
The fans in this town live and die with the Lakers and the Dodgers. When the teams are up, the fans are up. (And likewise, when they’re down.) There are some places where my Sox cap-wearin’, Sam Adams-swiggin’ self would not be welcome. (And by “not be welcome” I mean "get stabbed repeatedly in the abdomen.") Luckily I’ve found a dive bar where the fans care, but don’t care enough for five to ten.
During the Finals in early ’08 I was practically the only green shirt in the bar. After the Game Six curb-stomping, I had to convince the owner to leave one television in the corner on the celebration while he grumpily changed every other one over to some random South American soccer game. On St. Patrick’s Day this year, I was the only noise in a dead-silent bar after Iguodala hit a last-second three for the win at the Staples Center. Sometimes the Hate goes both ways.
Many Boston fans say it’s unwarranted. They point to the years upon years that we suffered through Drew Bledose, Mo Vaughn, and Antoine Walker not taking us quite where we wanted to go. Of course that argument doesn’t go over well when you phrase it as, “There was a time when we weren’t on top.”
The tired clichés still resonate that we’re a racially insensitive, overconfident, mentally inferior town of angry Irish drunks. While this is true, we’re also … no, I’m joking. The stereotypes are the same, but I assure you the city has changed immensely. We’re really just like you! I swear!
I used to think the Hate would bother me. But I gotta say – over the years – I’ve grown to enjoy being the Bad Guy. And I think the men we root for have too.
Rajon Rondo has embraced it by throwing people into scorer’s tables. Kendrick Perkins has embraced it by throwing forearm shivers into opponents’ throats. Glen Davis has embraced it, by knocking rich children to the ground. Eddie House has embraced it, by coaxing the opposing bench into technicals. Heck, even Brian Scalabrine has embraced it by fouling everyone in sight with that glowering scowl on his face at all times (though that might just be from all the concussions).
The other teams have been doing their part as well. Papelbon and Youk, for example, ooze attitude every time they step on the field. Randy Moss sneers at opposing fans. The young Bruins get into fights every chance they get (also called ‘Hockey’).
Now we walk into opposing arenas and sports bar like the heel in wrestling. We welcome the jeers. We feed off The Hate. It’s good to be bad. They’re gonna hate us anyway; no matter what we do. There’s no cure for Boston Hate. So we might as well embrace it.