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Dirty Little Secret

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Dirty Little Secret Winslow Townson/AP

As the dog days of summer approach, Red Sox fans continue to be troubled by what has been a season-long series of false starts and dashed hopes. There have been flashes of brilliance from this team but also much longer stretches of mediocrity, all while the guys in pinstripes continue to play with a youthfulness that makes you wonder if there's a Dorian Gray-like team portrait hanging in Hank Steinbrenner's office. It would be enough to make me add several new gray hairs if it were not for my dirty little secret. No, it's not Just For Men. It's that I just don't care like I once did. 

Talk like that is blasphemy I know, akin to suggesting the Sox really haven't sold out five thousand straight games or that 'Sweet Caroline' needs to be retired to oldies radio. But it's the truth. The passion I once had for this team just ain't what it used to be and I'm not sure there's a simple explanation.

Part of it is the fact that they actually won the World Series, not once, but twice. This was not supposed to happen until I was in my nineties, so I could consider it an appropriate signal to exit stage left. Those of us who suffered through the near misses of '67, '72, '75, '78, '86, and even '03 understood that the disappointments were our bond, the glue that held together our fraternity of Fenway-ites, whose quest for the holy grail of sport was an honorable, if seemingly impossible journey. Don't get me wrongwinning was amazing. The thrill of that 2004 World Series title was unforgettable and more than made up for all of the previous heartbreak but it also led to the first chink in my diehard's armor in 2007, when victory just didn't have the same feel. Maybe Yankee fans have understood this for years. Maybe winning on a regular basis dulls the senses a bit. All I know is that, when that goal was no longer elusive, the hunger wasn't quite the same.

Of course there's more to it than that. Part of it is a severe case of overexposure. As a youngster, games on television were a treat. For many years NBC's Game of the Week was actually that, the only game you might see on the small screen that entire week. There were no highlight shows, no ESPN, NESN, MLB Network, no sports talk radio, no websites, and no bloggers. When I was kid, we used computers to send people to the moon. That's how primitive we were back then. To be a baseball fan you had to read the newspaper, of all things. To follow your favorite team you'd pore over box scores and, if you were really lucky, you'd get your hands on a weekly magazine like Sport or Sports Illustrated, where there might even be pictures of some of the players. Now it's possible to watch every game played every single night and not just on your television, but (for those tech savvy followers) right on your phone, while you're driving down the road not texting. With the click of a mouse you can find not only a player's batting average but discern how he does with a 3-2 count against left handed relief specialists in road stadiums with retractable roofs. Suffice it to say, some of the mystery is gone.

I'm not saying I don't still watch the games, though the nights of me hanging on every pitch are long gone. Part of that has to do with the fact that even well-pitched games take three hours these days and that's not the kind of time commitment I'm eager to make on a nightly basis. I watch, I follow, I cheer, but my dirty little secret is that I don't get mad like I used to; I don't live and die with the Red Sox. In the big picture that's probably a healthy thing but, truth be told, I kind of miss that old feeling.

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