October 11, 2007

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LONGSHOTS: Whoís more popular, Patriots or Sox?
by Dave Long

Iíve got a question for you here today: whoís more popular in these parts, the Patriots or the Red Sox?

Itís a question Iíve been wondering about for the last few weeks. With the Patriots having won three Super Bowl titles this century and currently inspiring ďCan they go undefeated?Ē chatter, and the Red Sox at the same time holding the best record in baseball a few years after ending the 86-year-old Curse of the Bambino, we are in the midst of an unprecedented run of sports luck these days. And it has skyrocketed the popularity to the absolute peak the Patriots and Red Sox have ever enjoyed.

Iím not sure how you pin it down. For some folks itís like asking a parent to decide on one of their kids or the other. Then there are people like Washington Post columnist Tom Boswell, who wrote a semi-famous column in 1987 on the 100 reasons why baseball is better than football. It was a nice try, but if you look at it today some of the very things he indicated football was not all that interesting Ė like expanded playoffs - have now been adopted by baseball BECAUSE they make the experience so much better. And there are those who think TV ratings say it all and in that department, as Robert Parish used to say, itís nooooo contest where football is king.

The latest example of that came on a Sunday a few weeks back when the Pats faced San Diego as the Yanks and Sox did battle at Fenway. Itís not really an apples-to-apples comparison as one sport plays 162 games and the other just 16, making each one much more important than one in 162. Still, the Sox were playing the Yankees, who had cut the lead down to three games, so it was a very important game. Yet 950,000 or so tuned in football while the number for baseball was around 650,000.

Since thatís not conclusive enough, Iíve concocted the following test to analyze more scientifically just who is most popular where a maximum of five points is up for grabs in each category. Try it based on what you think and see how that compares to what I came up with.

Which team does your favorite player play for? Whoís more popular, Tom Brady or Big Papi? I think itís Brady by a hair, or is it the hair? More likely itís the national profile, where Papi lags behind. Pats get a point.

The game: Boswell can come up with 500 more clever reasons and it wonít matter. Footballís a better game for TV, routinely has more drama because it has a clock, just those 16 games and even though I donít do it, itís the best game for gambling. So the Pats draw you in for a plus three.

Game-day experience: Fenway and Wrigley Field are baseballís best experiences for real fans who donít care about small seats and getting sushi at the park. Football is like going to a Jimmy Buffett concert, a full-day affair with good food and a party-like atmosphere. If it werenít for Fenway it would be football, but instead itís a tie.

Whoís got the better announcers? Believe it or not this can make a difference. I absolutely believe over-the-top calls from Johnny Most gave people something to talk about the next day, especially those who saw a completely different Celtics game on TV while listening to his call on the radio! Now that HD TV throws off the timing when you watch on TV with the sound down and the radio tuned to Gino and Gil Santos like I did for the Super Bowl win in 2003, baseball has the edge. And with the Patriots you occasionally get stuck with guys like out-of-his-element Tony Kornheiser, who last year went on and on about how the Patriots were clearly most popular in Boston until Mike Tirico finally asked toward the end of the game if heíd ever heard of the Red Sox. And when compared to the chemistry of Don Orsillo and Rem Dog and the youíll-appreciate-him-more-after-heís-gone Joe Castiglione, itís a big edge to baseball, though Gino and Gil and better network crews bring it down to a plus two.

Which team winning would make you the most euphoric? I know people who stayed up into the next day after the Red Sox won in 2004. And while the weather was better for their victory parade four million went to their parade. Not to mention 3,000 packed Veterans Park in town just to see the trophy. Plus one Sox.

Do fans stick with them when they are losing? Both teams have impressive sell-out streaks rolling. But the Celtics sold out 660 straight games in the Bird era and it hasnít been easy in recent years to get anyone to even admit they were a fan. Anyone who saw Foxoboro during the Victor Kiam years when they almost moved to St. Louis can tell you streaks stop. In 1993 the Red Sox finished under .500 a second straight year and were fourth in the league at 2.4 million. Plus two Sox.

Which team losing would send you into the deepest catatonic depression? I canít image anything worse than the aftermath of the Grady Little game in 2003. It was morose around here for two weeks. And the anguish in the voices of callers to WEEI the next day sounded like someone had died. I donít believe a Patriot loss of any kind could engender anything even remotely close to the despair that followed Aaron Booneís homer. My friend Pete Tarrier didnít talk for a week. Ditto for the world-famous Laura Meyer of the Morning Buzz, who likes yakking more than Manny likes hanging curve balls. I know it sounds weird, but watching the Nation get off the mat from that hay maker to being ready for action after Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke came aboard is one of the best fan things Iíve witnessed. The Patriots canít touch that. The Sox get all five points.

If you had only one TV and the clicker was busted: The only true test would be if the Super Bowl and World Series Game Seven were played at the exact same time and you could only watch one. The series would have the edge right off the bat (no pun intended) with me because Iíd avoid the insufferable half-time show that now seems to last longer than the game. But if you take out house parties itíd be close to even.

So itís a plus six for the Red Sox, which isnít much different than what I thought. There may be a few more Patriots fans now ó but the love affair with the Red Sox seems much deeper to me.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billyís Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM-Nashua.


10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments

9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Mís for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat