Bob Lobel: Wes Welker, Helter Skelter
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Good question, because no one will be writing that this is the “greatest team ever.” No one will be picking them to make the postseason. The team says that season ticket sales have been off by 10 percent. That’s not good. Larry Lucchino predicts the controversial sell out streak will probably end at the second game of the season. That can't be good.
This manager is their third in three years. That’s a bad sign if taken at face value. So what has made this spring such a feel good time? Let me tell you, for one thing, there has been no manager-initiated dance competition. The last guy to do that went on to be a college athletic director. There has been no general manager saying that he had to feed the monster he created. The last one to do that became a general manager of a team that lost 100 games since he joined them. There has been no tell-all book about front office dysfunction. The last author of a book like that ended up in Cleveland, of all places.
So it's been good! Lots of terrific pitching with a rebuilt bullpen, where pennants are now won and lost. Lots of young talent with a sense of purpose. But most importantly, the pressure seems to be off. There have been recent disasters that had to be rectified. There were perceptions that needed to change about the way the place was being run, both off and on the field.
And do not underestimate the effect the other sports teams in town seem to hold sway over each other. For instance, a hockey lockout and a shortened Patriots postseason, tends to divert attention. An injured Rajon Rondo and a mediocre basketball team will also divert attention from Red Sox woes.
But the best thing to happen to the Red Sox this spring has been Wes Welker. There is nothing like losing one of your most popular athletes to totally occupy the attention span of the fan. Add to that the controversy that arose from the Denver boot delivered to Patriots fans. Did Welker jump or was he pushed? No matter really, because as far as the Red Sox are concerned, it had the effect of anesthesia.
Since everyone has an opinion on Welker, I'll offer mine. I'm more concerned about his long-term health than his contribution to whatever team he plays for. He makes Denver a better team. That doesn’t mean his loss makes the Patriots less potent. On the contrary, we have no clue on that score.
Welker has taken some brutal hits in this concussion-obsessed world. That toughness, while adding to his popularity here and now, will not serve him well in the future. But we have learned that this is the way Belichick and Kraft operate.
This is a very key point to remember: they fall in love with winning. They do not fall in love with the player. Better to leave that to the fans who buy the shirts in the pro shop.
So I bring up a question that I have continually asked myself over the last three decades in this little corner of our world: Are fans rabid fans of one team specifically, and then fill in the empty places with the other three?
I suppose such a subjective question can only be answered with “fans are fans of one and all in various degrees at various times.” It's all about jumping on and jumping off the bandwagon. True, until a Wes Welker happens. Or an Adam Vinateri happens and so on and and so on.
For now, this has been a boffo spring for the Boston Red Sox. The only nagging question is the one being whispered about David Ortiz. It feels like they spent a lot of money on an old and injured player. That may not be true at all. If Ortiz bounces back here instead of going somewhere else, at least we wont have to say, “Why can't we get players like that?”
With Welker, I'd say that’s an automatic.
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