The 2017 Red Sox are good, but not especially interesting. Especially not when, in the first half of a bloated 162-game season, barely one of every four games in done in less than three hours.
There it was, 11 paragraphs down in Sunday’s Boston Globe, the most interesting detail in a story only actually definable by nebulous theories.
“(Red Sox president Sam Kennedy) said NESN broadcast ratings are down 20 percent from last season.”
I can’t believe it’s not worse, and it got me thinking about the ebb and flow of our teams.
We need a little context here. Red Sox ratings from 2016 were up 33 percent from 2015, per Forbes, essentially erasing the 2014 nosedive that followed the 2013 championship. NESN, despite its pervasive NESN-ness, will almost certainly again be the region’s top prime-time network and one of the 10 most-watched regional sports networks in the country.
Despite the early day baseball Kennedy pointed to. Despite the lack of charisma, David Ortiz’s long shadow, the length of games, too many too focused on the negatives thanks to talk radio and TV ...
The 2017 Red Sox are good. They are refreshing in the sense they’re one of the few not only scoring on home runs. (Through the weekend demolition of Toronto, the Sox had 83 homers for the season. The Dodgers hit 53 last month.) A rebirth of the rivalry with the Yankees is brewing, never mind the venom with Baltimore.
The team is not especially interesting. Especially not when, in the first half of a bloated 162-game season, barely one of every four games in done in less than three hours. That’s just fine if you’re at the park, but death if you’ve literally a million other options to choose.
Ortiz could counteract that. As we’ve noted here before, the mere prospect of him batting in a big spot was exciting. He could do anything at any point, in every good and bad sense of that word.
His type rarely comes around. Look no further than our slate of four: All teams either at the top of their leagues or heading that way. Outside of Tom Brady, what do we have?
Plenty of great athletes. A complete lack of real needle movers. An absence of anyone who really feels like they’re going to shuffle our regional affinity rankings.
History tells us they’ll shuffle, though it’s a hard thing to read. When this was a Bruins town in the 1970s, who thought it’d be a Celtics town in the 1980s? That it’d be a Patriots town for close to 20 years, ever?
The Celtics get a little better every year, led by a young coach and featuring an entertaining brand of basketball. They came into the summer loaded with assets and looking ready to assemble a true contender against the elite.
Not quite yet, it’d seem.
The Bruins dumped Claude Julien and instantly became a more dynamic, more enjoyable watch. David Pastrnak and Frank Vatrano grab your attention, as do the BU infusion of Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.
Plenty of road to go, though.
As for our stars? Patrice Bergeron is truly great, but largely in a “you’ll miss this when it’s gone” sense. Brad Marchand, for as much as he’s risen, still gets bogged in goonery. Isaiah Thomas is a question mark until we see if the max contract he’s worthy of comes from here.
The Sox have Dustin Pedroia, but his best days are behind him and he’s never exactly embraced the spotlight. Hanley Ramirez has his moments, but they’re just that. Chris Sale is dominant, but not dynamic as Pedro was. Craig Kimbrel? Better pitcher than even peak Jonathan Papelbon, but completely absent the extracurriculars.
Which leaves the Patriots, and football as a whole. It is our national sport, and our team indisputably its best franchise, but football is NESN-like in its ability to succeed in spite of itself.
What happens after Brady and Belichick? The Bruins receded. The Celtics receded. The Red Sox, Impossible Dream and 2004 and all those unforgettable moments, receded as well.
Times change. And sometimes mere greatness, it’d seem, isn’t enough.
— Contact Jon Couture at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @JonCouture.