Credit to our longtime stalwart and mainstay Mike On Route One, who epitomizes the best of #BJBSJ– this is his piece. Now, give @MikeOneRoute1 a follow. Done? Please proceed.
The Boston sports media is good at one thing – and that is the creation of myth. Some of these are to the benefit of their own perceived toughness and relevance as is the case with their hagiography of Will McDonough unceremoniously dumping Raymond Clayborn into a laundry cart and forcing him to luffa his pock marks.
Others are designed to move forward an agenda – as it is the case with their decades long crusade to remind you that the Patriots never had a winning season prior to the arrival of Bill Parcells. The subtext in this case being that this is, and always will be, a Baseball Town.
Another favorite move is also conflating conventional media opinion with that of fan opinion. There is ample evidence that fan opinion is downstream of media takes, so there is some validity to that. But there are notable exceptions when the two are wildly divergent. And when The Take is proven wrong, the media will disavow all knowledge of their previous statements and put it all on The Fans.
The death of Bill Buckner has brought about a unique strand of the worst kinds of media revisionism. I have no dog in this fight. I loathe the media, the fans, and the Red Sox. BJBSJ exists entirely because Boston fans are a unique brand of toxic awfulness so this is not a defense of them. It is merely opposition to blindly parroting talking points.
Shortly after Buckner’s death was announced, video started to circulate of him being cheered at the 2008 home opener. The narrative became that Red Sox fans “finally” forgave him. This is, of course, false. It may be because these videos are the easiest to track down. A more cynical man than I would suggest that the Henry Crime Family has no problem accepting credit for mending this relationship between Buckner and the fans.
Buckner was cheered by the 750K fans in attendance in the days following the loss to the Mets. When the parade ended in a celebration at City Hall Plaza (as it always should, by the way), he took the microphone and was cheered.
(As an aside, I encourage you to watch this entire video. Because…it’s nice.)
The hardos that have tried to ruin the sports experience in this town tell us that we only observe TITALS in Beantown, baby! This ain’t Losahville! But there is something, amidst all this winning, that we have lost and that is a collective appreciation for teams that fight the good fight and come up short. I say this as an unequivocal apologist for the 2007 Patriots and 2010 Celtics.)
Buckner was again cheered at the home opener in 1987. (Which would mark the first of seemingly three dozen Dave Steib starts for this humble scribe.)
Fast forward to April of 1990. A nation’s imagination was captured by a college basketball team making white t-shirts under their jerseys cool and by wrestlers being transported to the ring in…mini-rings. In Boston, Red Sox fans gave Buckner ANOTHER GOD DAMN STANDING OVATION at the home opener after he signed with them as a free agent. (How fucking insane is it that Buckner was still playing in 1990 after running like he did in 1986? Preposterous.)
It’s curious that if it was so bad here, why would he sign with the team again? Maybe they were the only ones offering a contract? That’s certainly possible, though doubtful.
Examples given were the asshole that saw Buckner signing an autograph and encouraged a kid not to give Bill the ball as he would just drop it. Aside from not making much sense, this is mean spirited. Bill rightly collared the guy.
What is curiously absent in this Montville piece is a mention of death threats. The claim that Buckner was the recipient of these threats, plural, is mentioned in many obits in the wake of his passing. Maybe this happened.
Given the lousiness of people, it’s highly possible. Where do “death threats” begin and where does “I hope you die” begin? For the recipient, I guess it doesn’t matter. But, like the BRUINS FANZ SENT RACIST TWEETS thing I’m skeptical it was an epidemic, if it even happened.
I welcome evidence of Buckner saying it did. But Buckner spoke to Montville for this story. Would that have been mentioned somewhere in the story if it had in fact happened? I’d wager yes. But really, get a load of this bullshit:
“He is a character from a modern Nathaniel Hawthorne novel about the harshness of village life in New England. A scarlet letter and a scarlet numeral adorn Bill Buckner’s chest, the poor man consigned forever to wear the symbol E-3 on the local streets in remembrance of his momentary fall into sin. There is no forgetting what he did. There, alas, can be no forgiveness.”
Absolving those most responsible for their role. It should further be noted that this Idaho move was something that was planned for years, Buckner having owned the property since the 70’s. (h/t @bookjailer) :
There was no forgiveness that needed to be given by Buckner TO the fans or by the fans TO Buckner. Bill said as much. “I really had to forgive the – not the fans of Boston, just per se, but I would say – I would have to say, in my heart, I had to forgive the media, you know, for what, you know, they put me and my family through. So you know, I’ve done that. I’m over that.”
To paraphrase the execrable FIELD OF DREAMS – “It was you.” “No, Dan. It was you.”
Of fucking course this all ties back to Shaughnessy. 1986 was when shit really kicked into gear. When The Curse became a real thing. The hard cover edition prominently featured Ruth AND Buckner’s error. Dan is wholly responsible for the popular national perception of Buckner’s relationship with the Boston fans.
The fans always got it. The media – for profit or pleasure – pretended that the fans didn’t. Sure, some painters cap wearing mouthbreather invariably said some dumb shit.
The craziest Boston fan paradox to me – as a longtime observer of the various cancerous strains within the group – is that they are, in the collective, simultaneously at their best and worst.
The ability to think Bill Belichick is arrogant or is losing it exists in the same place that understands that Bill Buckner NEEDED those ovations. That we should cheer our loudest when Normand Leveille comes out for a skate. That our overrating of role players to cult status is at the same time a maddening and endearing trait.
But do you know any Red Sox fan who hated Bill Buckner? And I don’t mean in like your aunt from Saugus kinda way. Like “faaaack Billy Bucknah!”
The blame pie, as I’ve always known it is McNamara, Stanley/Gedman, (I assume there’s some weird West Berlin-like enclave around Worcester County where it was a wild pitch) and Schiraldi. Hell, our own Displaced Bostonian likely believes that Roger asked out with the blister. (Apropos of nothing, the 1986 season is fucking insane. There are no less than twenty insane factoids or coincidences. Jim Rice was thrown out on the bases twenty times in the playoffs. The idea that the Mets and Red Sox played a fucking exhibition game during the season is more mind blowing than Buckner predicting the error or Schiraldi telling batshit Mitchell how he would pitch him while they would lie in bed at night as A ball roommates. Jesus Christ.)
I do not lightly absolve Boston fans – especially baseball fans – of their sins.
But in this case, it is largely, if not completely warranted. The “hatred” of Buckner was never real. It was manufactured to sell books and to have a clever narrative with which to frame current and future failures.