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How to Lose a Fanbase: The Josh Beckett Story

Friday, May 11th, 2012
(Photo: Josh Beckett by Daniel Goldman | The Associated Press)

Boston: one of the biggest sports cities in America. Their fans are among the most diehard and the most outspoken for every team they root for. The Bruins. The Celtics. The Patriots. And of course, The Boston Red Sox. These are lifelong fans that have been through no shortage of hard times and good times. Fans that worship their biggest stars and revile their rivals. Long story short, Boston fans care immensely about their teams.

Enter Josh Beckett. Beckett made a big splash early in his career, winning the 2003 World Series MVP with the Florida Marlins in his third season. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 2005, and was handed starting rotation duties in 2007 – and rewarded the Sox with 7 consecutive wins. He made the All-Star team in 2007, 2009, and 2011. So why is he currently public enemy #1 in Boston?

Let’s get one big fat factor right out in the open: The Red Sox are losing. This all started with the Red Sox’s historically epic collapse at the end of the 2011 season, losing 18 of their last 20 games. The cap on the season was emphasized with a particularly poignant loss in Game 162. A turbulent offseason followed, and the bad mojo has continued thus far into the 2012 season, where the Sox currently sit in fourth place in the AL East.

In such situations, any team member could easily find themselves under a certain measure of scrutiny from the fanbase. But what Beckett has achieved is special. Let’s rewind back to that 2011 collapse. Perhaps you remember when the Boston Globe dropped the bomb that Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey reportedly would drink beer, eat fast food, and play video games in the clubhouse during games (games of importance, games their team lost). This, shall we say, did not go over well with the fans. To them, and to everyone with common sense, it showed a remarkable lack of dedication to the team and passion for the game. Everyone except for Beckett, that is.

So when Beckett was discovered last week to have gone golfing on the day he was taken out of the rotation for stiffness and soreness, the reaction was predictable. Then when he came back last night and pitched rather poorly, the boo’s as well were predictable. But it was the post-game presser that really put the icing on the cake. When asked about his golf outing, Becket stated emphatically that he thought it was no one else’s business what he does on his off-days.

At this time I’d like to quote Mike Greenberg of ESPN’s Mike and Mike. “If you’re a fan, in my opinion, you can only ask two things [of players]: 1. Act like you care. Act like it matters at least as much as me…And the other is…at least give me some reason to believe you have an appreciation for how good your life is.” Mike used this idea to highlight the difference between Boston stars Kevin Garnett and Josh Beckett. He couldn’t be more right. Where Garnett shows his fervor for the game with everything he says and does, Beckett has shown nothing but flippancy.