Bill Simmons started watching the 2013 Red Sox in August, and hey, what do you know, a championship! Time to write about them like he had been paying attention all season (Part 2)
Bill was in the middle of telling us how 79-year-old Bill Russell tires easily. But don't worry, Red Sox fans, you'll be hearing about your team soon enough. Just need to account for the fact that Bill doesn't know jack fucking dick about baseball and is a huge fairweather Red Sox fan. Once he gets done telling his story about an athlete from the sport he actually follows, he'll get around to you.
We walked into his library, which was practically sinking under all the books and pictures.
What an asshole.
"Here, look at this," Bill Russell said.
I hope Russell did the "You've got something on your shirt VWOOP gotcha!" move.
He handed me a framed photo of himself and Obama — taken two years earlier in 2010, when Obama had invited Russell to the White House, given him the Presidential Medal of Freedom and urged the city of Boston to build a statue for him.
I can't think of a better example of a plea destined to fall upon deaf ears.
"Isn't that something?" he asked me, beaming proudly, looking like me after my daughter
HEY I HAVE KIDS AND THEY ARE SUPER ZANY
crushes one of her soccer games. Only Obama gets Bill Russell to geek out.
He loved everything about that day. Once upon a time, Russell had given speeches telling his fellow African Americans to keep their eyes on the prize, to never let anyone define them, or keep them down, or tell them they couldn't do something. He wanted them to believe that they didn't have a ceiling, that 40 or 50 years later, one of them could even be president. He made that point in more than one speech.
Specific examples? Research? Context? Not here, reader. You're in Grantland now.
Now it was 2012 … and Bill Russell was holding a photo of him and President Barack Obama. Isn't that something? Yes. That's something.
We spent the next hour sitting at his kitchen table, with Russell telling us story after story. He kept bringing up his late wife, his third one, who had passed away a few years earlier. It became more and more obvious that he hadn't recovered yet.
From all of that brutal standing he had to do earlier.
I found myself worrying about him. He's not alone all the time, right? People come to visit him, right? Russell talked about his various road trips,
how sometimes he just packs a bag, climbs into his car and goes. He drives to Los Angeles, Chicago, wherever. He loves driving. Sometimes he'll bring a friend to keep him company.
This is somehow even less interesting than the part of the article I covered in my last post.
Eventually, we started talking about Boston again. I had a good handle on Russell at this point. You get one chance with him and that's that. It's a theme that kept coming up all day. Boston had already used up that one chance, as well as about seven other ones.
How much bitterness did Russell have toward Boston? When the Celtics retired his number in 1972, he skipped the ceremony. No-showed it. Who does that? He made the same point over and over again: His loyalties lay with his Celtics teammates, and Red Auerbach, and Walter Brown. Not the fans, and definitely not the city. He didn't care if he ever went back. Or so he claimed.
Remember that part about him not showing up for his own number retirement ceremony? Seems pretty legit. HAHA BUT JOKE'S ON YOU, BILL RUSSELL, YOU WERE LURED BACK AFTER THE PRESIDENT TOLD THE CITY TO MAKE AMENDS AND THEN THEY BUILT YOU A STATUE. YOUR CONVICTIONS AREN'T SO STRONG AFTER ALL! This just goes to prove that racism doesn't exist in Boston.
I didn't totally believe him. Deep down, he cares. I think he does, anyway.
But that statue was going up whether Bill Russell showed up or not. The city needed it as much as he did.
I'm pretty sure the city needed it way more than he did, given the way it treated him.
The mayor kept pressuring him, cajoling him, practically begging him to return. Same for Steve Pagliuca, one of the current owners of the Celtics (and one of the people responsible for making the statue happen). Same for Russell's daughter, Karen, and everyone else who Russell trusts in his life. Eventually, the great Bill Russell caved. He agreed to come back to Boston.
The ceremony will happen two days after the Red Sox won another World Series. Russell returns to a different city in every respect.
Terrible writing. Every respect? Every last one?
The Big Dig finished nearly a decade ago, opening up downtown and even extinguishing some of the suffocating traffic.
Traffic Bill probably didn't have to deal with that much, considering he left in 1969.
It's a much happier city now, with a recent run of championships killing off the "woe is us" mentality that had become an identity of sorts (both locally and nationally).
You know when else they had a run of championships? In the 1960s, when Russell was there. I'm not sure he would really have been aware of the insufferable woe is us vibe that permeated the place during the 80s and 90s.
Boston fans don't expect the worst anymore.
OW-UH FANS AHHHH MO-AH PESSIMISTIC THAN YO-AH FANS! THEY HAVE INTUITIONS THAT OTHAHS DO NOT!
During the late innings of Game 2 of the ALCS against Detroit, when it looked like the Red Sox offense had a giant salad fork sticking out of it, I found it fascinating that everyone at Fenway kept waiting for the boys to improbably rally even before that improbable rally happened.
Can you believe the stadium didn't just empty out because it was 5-1 in the 7th inning of a playoff game? Those fans who stuck around in their $400 seats are literally amazing heroes. And they didn't just stick around--they stuck around AND hoped their team would win, and then the team did exactly that. It's the most astonishing human accomplishment I have ever heard of, other than the moon landing (if we assume the moon landing actually happened).
Holy dog balls, the self-importance of the fans of this city can barely be described.
It was that kind of season. A different dude with a different beard seemed to come through every time we needed it. Coming off an unhappy 2011 ending (that's an understatement)
That's one of my favorite nights of sports ever, and my favorite team was most certainly not involved in any of the action or fun.
and a catastrophic 2012 season,
I know I made this joke last time but CHICKEN AND BEER. NEVER FORGET. WORSE THAN THE CHALLENGER DISASTER.
the owners and GM Ben Cherington smartly shifted gears and emphasized chemistry over everything else.
Ah, chemistry. The favorite worthless narrative of shithead sportswriters everywhere. If the Red Sox had the exact same group of players who all had the exact same amount of fun, but lost to Tampa in the ALDS, then the problem would have been NOT ENOUGH TEAM CHEMISTRY. Meanwhile I'm sure their title had nothing to do with their awesome pitching staff and surprisingly potent lineup. Nah, it was just that the players really liked high fiving each other.
They gravitated toward likable guys who could handle playing in Boston, even severely overpaying one of the league's best teammates (Shane Victorino)
No one has ever said that about Victorino prior to this October. Suddenly he has a good playoffs for a championship team and he's Mr. Chemistry. Sportswriters are the dumbest fucking people on the planet.
because he made more sense for this plan than just about anyone else. Victorino's at-bat music ended up being the rallying cry for 2013: Every time he came up at Fenway, you could hear the first notes of a Bob Marley song, followed by Marley singing, "Don't worry … about a thing," and then 35,000 fans screaming, "CUZ EVERY LITTLE THING … IS GONNA BE ALL RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!"
Percentage this had to do with Boston's title: fucking Z fucking E fucking R fucking fuckity fuck fuck O.
That's all you needed to know about the 2013 Red Sox.
What he means here, and in everything that follows, is "This is pretty much all I know about the 2013 Red Sox, because I didn't pay attention to them until August. Hey did you know Bill Russell likes Eggo waffles? His freezer is full of them."
For the first four months, nobody expected them to win the World Series —
You're right, they were only in first place on May 1, June 1, and July 1 (best record in the AL at that time), but I agree--the 2013 Red Sox were truly the little engine that could. With their scant $158MM payroll (4th highest in baseball) and loads of on-field success throughout the season, who could have seen a deep playoff run coming?
we were just happy to have a likable Red Sox team again.
THE 2012 RED SOX WERE NAWT FUN! BY WHICH I MEAN THEY DID NAWT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS!
Go eat a fucking knife, Bill. You're the worst.