The Sox and Patriots were both in play this weekend. One continued a historic run. The other delved into remarkably deeper shades of embarrassment.
The 2012 Patriots are now 9-3, and by whatever quirk you want to reference, possess the No. 2 seed in the AFC, thanks to Pittsburgh’s last-second win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. It wasn’t New England’s finest effort by any means in Miami, where it sealed up a 23-16 win, but a W is a W is a W.
One day earlier, dozens of Red Sox fans filled Fenway Park for the 10th annual “Christmas at Fenway,” the team’s annual ticket push that this year more resembled a PBS tote bag drive than the pep rally it’s intended to be.
As the Patriots continue their dominance, the Red Sox grovel to get you back. And their translucent anxiety about their ability to do so is more and more evident.
Head to Patriots Place today, and you can purchase an “AFC East Champs” T-shirt. Head to Yawkey Way and you might find some leftover 2009 Wild Card paraphernalia. Yet, there was Larry Lucchino in a cringe-inducing appearance on NESN Saturday, boasting about his team’s success over the past decade. It’s all about nostalgia with the Red Sox after all. Or have you not heard what this ownership group has delivered over the past 10 years? Ask. They’re more than happy to tell.
Of course, the Patriots are no strangers in the boasting department, but at least they have recent history to back it up. For all the suck-up coverage they receive on a weekly basis, there are nuggets of validity. On Saturday, I wanted to get to Fenway as quickly as I could to rescue Tom Caron and Jerry Remy as they hosted and endured a painful, two-hour Red Sox advertisement. Lucchino and Sam Kennedy spoke as if this were a franchise on the cusp of greatness instead of the buffoonery circus it has molded into.
Essentially, the Sox believe they can win back your trust through hot cocoa, laser shows, and telling you how good they’ve been to you. The Patriots just win, and justifiably strut their egos along Route 1. Fans salivate over their success, enjoying an era that never seems to get passé.
Meanwhile, in the Fens, ever more a suspicious eye is raised with every move or rumor. According to a NESN poll, fans want the Red Sox to sign Josh Hamilton over every other free agent available. The Red Sox will sigh Josh Hamilton too. This is how they do business. Appease the masses.
Carl Crawford, anyone?
I hope we’re wrong, that Lucchino’s grubby fingers don’t mess up what Ben Cherington has in mind, that he reads Brian MacPherson’s tremendous plea to proceed intelligently, but it’s foolhardy to think otherwise. With the Winter Meetings upon us, and the lackluster showing at Fenway over the weekend, you just know that members of the brass want to steal some headlines. After that sad display on Saturday, HWL all have to realize just how far the grace has plummeted.
So, welcome Josh Hamilton.
Meanwhile, we are thrust into the two most fascinating games of the season at Gillette Stadium, where the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers will try to sort out the playoff picture in the AFC. New England is currently the No. 2 seed based on the league’s three-way tie-breaking rule, but will drop to No. 3 even if they and the Baltimore Ravens win out. It’s a tall task for the Patriots, but the Ravens have been shaky of late, and have Washington, Denver, the Giants, and Cincinnati remaining. After their Houston-San Francisco challenge, New England has Jacksonville and Miami.
There’s intrigue in that schedule, as well as what goes down in Nashville. Will the Sox go status quo and throw money at the problem? Or will they actually, finally, build a baseball team?
They are two different franchises on two different avenues. One cares about winning. The other wants you to think they do.
It’s easy to buy into the Patriots. The Red Sox’ pronounced arrogance makes it more and more difficult to do so. Saturday was the latest farce to take place, a translucent push that exhibits just how desperate they have become.
The Patriots are desperate too. For wins.