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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.