Today, a very, very strange thing happened in baseball. Yes, the baseball season is over, but that is beside the point. This morning's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the primary newspaper to the St. Louis area, displayed an open letter from the management of the Boston Red Sox, who beat local team the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series last week 4-2. What is very strange is not the fact that Red Sox management had an open letter published in the loser's local paper, but the content of the letter itself: The Red Sox were thanking the Cardinals for being hospitable, nice, and friendly. This is not the Red Sox we know from 2004, which swept the Cardinals 4-0 in the World Series to break the Curse of the Bambino once and for all. This is not even the Red Sox from as recent as 2009. What happened? Are the hardy, tough Red Sox, representing the brawler spirit of New England, going soft on us?
The full-page letter below, which thanked St. Louis for the "warm Midwestern welcome you extended to our team and our fans" and contains a picture of two young fans of the opposing teams sitting together, surprised everyone in the St. Louis area. The story even got picked up by the local media as seen above. This is not to say that people were not grateful to the Red Sox for being so thankful. But it is incredibly strange that the Red Sox would go out of their way to thank the Cardinals organization and St. Louis in general so shortly after vanquishing them in a World Series filled with odd calls and accusations of cheating. Arguably, the calls and accusations may in fact have been a factor for this letter. But still, this is very strange.
Why is this very strange? It is because the Red Sox are not exactly known for being...nice. In fact, they are a pretty nasty bunch, as best represented by their fans, known as Red Sox Nation. While they are not like soccer hooligans out in Europe, Red Sox Nation will pick fights with you over their team, get all in your face, and troll you on the Internet over how great and storied their team was. Their press reports on the team every day of the year, even Christmas. They are the reason this writer hates sports. Not baseball, sports in general. The Red Sox did not act all nice when they swept the Cardinals in the World Series in 2004.
So what happened to them? Something changed. Perhaps, after breaking the Curse of the Bambino in 2004, following an incredible comeback against their most famous rivals that will live as sports legend and mythology, the Red Sox had no more excuses left. Red Sox Nation could no longer blame slugger Babe Ruth and his being traded to the New York Yankees, their current archrivals, in late 1918 for a terrible season or failing to clinch the Pennant or the World Series. The fans could only blame the Red Sox performing badly. Perhaps the last three seasons, which hit a low point in 2012 with the Red Sox being dead last, finally humbled Red Sox Nation into realizing that maybe their team is just another baseball team.
Maybe the situation this year changed as well. The rivalry between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, while nowhere near as historic as the Red Sox-Yankees, still resulted in two people being senselessly murdered, something that has never happened in the latter rivalry in recent memory. The New York Yankees, who used this season as a farewell tour for a couple of its players, struggled and failed to enter the playoffs at all this season, making the rivalry seem tame this year. More importantly, though, two Chechen idiots managed to punch Boston square in the jaw, which humbled the entire region. No longer could New England, and by extension the "Boston Strong" Red Sox and its Nation, be completely detached from the insanity of the world.
Perhaps it is too soon to call the Red Sox and its fanbase nice people. After all, this letter came from Red Sox management and not Red Sox Nation, and its press is still rambunctiously doing its pointless critiques. But this is a sign of change. Whether it is good or not remains to be seen.
The full-page letter, in full. Click the image for a larger, higher-quality version. (Image Source: KTVI/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)