Can I let you in on a little secret?
I can't stand Boston sports. No, I really can't stand any team in that town. It doesn't matter if we're talking Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, Boston College or anything else. Cleveland doesn't even have a hockey team, and I'd probably still find myself grinding my teeth if the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. That sentiment probably puts me in league with a lot of Cleveland fans -- and fans across the country, for that matter.
I can't stand the way their teams win with such regularity, the way the national media fawns over their every success, the incredible superiority complex it lends their fans, and the way their fans take that superiority complex to your town, your stadium, your arena, your bars and your neighborhood. You think every Sox fan lives within a traffic jam of the Mass Pike? The one who lives down the street from you just bought his first David Ortiz shirt in 2004. Right about the same time his Derek Jeter shirt got buried at the bottom of his dresser drawer.
I can't stand the way every Boston championship after even a quasi-dry spell is painted in the media as a triumph for all mankind. OK, I'll give them 86 years without a World Series title. But 22 years between NBA titles? Get bent. Far over. Please.
I can't stand Kevin Garnett's scowling, Cowher-esque jaw-jutting and F-bombs. I can't stand Paul Pierce and his screaming at the rafters. I can't stand Rajon Rondo busting Chicago's Brad Miller in the chops and getting off with a slap on the wrist.
I can't stand the fact that Manny Ramirez accomplished everything there that he couldn't here. I can't stand the 2-0 series lead the Indians blew in the 1999 division series and the 3-1 ALCS lead they blew in 2007. I couldn't stand Pedro Martinez then and I can't stand Jonathan Papelbon now. I can't Dustin Pedroia's snotty MVP video game commercial or the way they call Ortiz "Big Papi" in that New England accent that anglicizes everything. It's supposed to sound like "Poppy," not "Pappy."
I can't stand Tom Brady's elevation to the status of Ultimate Alpha Male. I can't stand the fact that Bill Belichick is a borderline-sinister tactician who didn't perfect his craft until he arrived in New England, until it was too late to save the Browns from the clutches of Baltimore. And I hate that the current owner of the Browns is locked in a perpetual, and likely futile, series of attempts to discover his own version of Belichick.
Jealous much? You're damn right. Because Boston is one of those cities where, when they're on top, you know it. You can't ignore it. It's been that way for years -- decades, actually.
Boston's sporting brashness was likely born in the working-class saloons of 19th Century Irish-immigrant Boston, when Boston was still a National League town and baseball games were the exclusive territory of men who could hold down a few pints. Then Boston became an American League town in 1901, and two years later, won the first-ever World Series by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates.
During that series, Boston's fans -- led by the "Royal Rooters," baseball's first widely-recognized group of superfans, helped their American League team's cause by making sure the song "Tessie" stayed in the ear of Honus Wagner and his Pittsburgh teammates. "Tessie" was featured in a Broadway show called "The Silver Slipper" that debuted in 1902. By 1903, the song was famous enough that the Royal Rooters adopted it, made up some new lyrics and used it to harass the Pittsburgh players.
After the series, Pittsburgh outfielder Tommy Leach gave an assist in Boston's triumph to "that damn 'Tessie' song.'" And an obnoxious heritage was born.
Now, whenever a Boston team is better than your team, you know it. Their fans make sure of it. Even during a cold, damp April baseball game in Cleveland, as was the case when several thousand Red Sox fans descended on Progressive Field Tuesday, making sure that they did everything in their power to match and surpass the volume of the home crowd. I can only assume the same scene played out on Monday and Wednesday.
The Cleveland crowd, subdued by rain, cold and yet another cruddy April by the home team, was subjected to the ear-grinding passion of the fans -- bandwagon and otherwise -- of a deep-pocketed baseball team that is always one October away from another World Series title. Bambino? Curse? Didn't Bambino play for the Royals back in the '80s? Or was that Balboni?
In my personal experience on Tuesday night, I was subjected to the high-pitched whine of a particularly enthusastic Boston fan sitting right behind me.
"C'mon Youk! YOUUUUUUK!!! C'mon Pappy!! BIIIIG Pappy! WOO!" All that, and he was clapping his hands approximately three millimeters from my ear canal, too.
Eventually, he left his seat, and my eyes were drawn to another Boston fan sitting one row down and about five seats over. Every time Red Sox starter Brad Penny fell behind in the count, this man would start to get agitated. When an Indian got a base hit, he'd throw his hands in the air and glare at the diamond like a man who just found an obscenity scratched into the paint of his car hood.
I've been to other Indians-Red Sox games and I've seen similar Boston behavior during those games, too. But I left Tuesday's game with the overwhelming feeling that it is impossible to enjoy a baseball game for the game's sake when you are with Boston fans. Perhaps outsiders feel the same way about Cleveland fans at a Browns game.
There is no atmosphere to absorb. There is no hanging out at the ballpark to take in the sights and smells during breaks in the action. There are wins and losses. Games won and lost, innings won and lost, at-bats won and lost. That's that.
Perhaps that's the price some Boston fans pay for their passion. There is no now. Now is just a precursor to whatever is next.
Even "Tessie" couldn't stand pat. She got a facelift when the rock band Dropkick Murphys covered the song in 2004. The year Boston's curse ended. The year Boston fans became obsessed with the future instead of the past.
Now, every title Boston wins only feeds that obsession. And every time one of their teams comes to Cleveland, we get to take it all in, every ounce of the endless soap-opera drama that is Boston sports and their legions of fans. Whether we want to or not.