Fenway Park will open its doors on Friday afternoon for the first Red Sox home game of the 2012 season, but despite the team's poor start and recent track record, Opening Day this year is about more than the team.
At 1:30 p.m. EST today, the festivities will start. Jets will flyover, the Pops will play, and two teams will take the field, one greeted by boos, the other ... well, that remains to be seen.
For Red Sox fans, Opening Day in Fenway Park is marked on calendars with the type of reverance usually reserved for religious holidays. This year, however, it's just not the same. Gone in the nervous energy and jubilation that typically greets the Sox home for the first time, replaced instead with a discontentment. There is grumbling where there should be excited chatter, sighs where there should be laughter, and perhaps even boos where there should be cheers.
It didn't really happen last year when the Sox came in at 0-6, so why should it as 1-5? There are a few reasons, but it's all to do with the narrative. Where the 2011 team were the best 0-6 team of all time that could not help but improve, Sox fans have no reason to hold quite so much faith in this team. After all, what did it get them last time but heartbreak the likes of which this team hasn't suffered for at least 8 years, and arguably for decades.
As a sum of its individual parts, this 2012 team is essentially the same as the 2011, with every chance in the world to win the one or two additional games necessary to head to the playoffs. What the fans will be seeing when the Sox take the field in Fenway, however, is not the 2012 Red Sox, but an extension of the 2011 team. The last time they were in Fenway, the Sox were still up two games on the Rays and quite possibly heading to the playoffs.
Since then, we've seen the Sox complete their collapse. We've seen them enter the offseason with holes to fill, and watch as the top options were snatched up by the likes of the Yankees. We've seen the roster depleted by offseason surgeries and filled in with mediocre replacements. And since then we've seen it all go so terribly wrong, just as it did to end 2011.
Does this team-the 2012 Red Sox, that is - deserve boos? No, probably not. Just as the 2011 Sox went from 0-6 to leading the division later in the season, this is likely just an aberration. There are reasons to question this team, and perhaps more than there were to question last year's iteration. Still, the fact remains that this is a baseball team filled with too many great players to simply fizzle out before things have even gotten well-and-truly started. Whether they'll make the playoffs or not is another story entirely, but this is not a team that's going to lose five out of six games very often, if ever again.
Hopefully any of you fans who are headed out to Fenway Park will keep that in mind. But if that doesn't do it for you, just remember that Opening Day is about more than just the team on the field now, especially in 2012. This is about the Red Sox tradition, and sitting in the same place that fans sat 70 years ago as Ted Williams took the field, or 100 years ago as the Sox opened Fenway for the first time. Let's not tarnish that by booing the team we love.