Well-Connected Ken Burns Apparently Knows Only Two Red Sox Fans

OK, fine. Three if we count Little Timmy Barnicle, who is rumored to have learned George Carlin’s seven major curse words at a very early age.

We don’t want to sound ungrateful after Ken Burns’ Baseball: The Tenth Inning devoted a sizable chunk of its runtime to the 2004 World Series victory. The historical background and dramatic moments were captured about as accurately as possible. By and large, the segment did justice to truthfully depicting the significance of the win on the larger scale.

But, seriously: Mike Barnicle and Doris Kearns Goodwin?

Little Timmy Barnicle standing on his chair at Yankee Stadium??

Burns apparently wasn’t interested in finding a few other Sox fans willing to come out of the woodwork and go on record.

Yeah, we’re a really bashful bunch by nature…But a disgraced former Boston Globe columnist and a biased historian discussing their fan experience in 2004 wasn’t just increasingly tiresome, but also lazy for someone as respected as Burns.

Neither representative is heaped in loads of credibility. Both Barnicle and Goodwin have adamantly denied fairly obvious accusations of plaigiarism in the past.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn-born Goodwin is already in her second marriage in terms of team allegiances. Wait ‘Til Next Year may be applicable to the Red Sox, but the book focused on the Brooklyn Dodgers. She adopted the Sox as “her” team in the late ‘60s. Sure, she may look like she waited all 86 years for the Sox to bring home a championship, but she’s actually only 67 years old. Her fandom was self-chosen as a coherent adult and, thus, her depiction as a poor, tortured soul is somewhat disingenuous.

Barnicle? Well, before he was a talking head on MSNBC, he was the kind of newspaper columnist who fabricated stories about kids dying from cancer in order to inject dramatic effect into his pieces. That was a long time ago and perhaps the man’s turned over a new leaf. (There is absolutely positively no chance he played up the drama of watching the 2003 and 2004 Game 7s with his sons because cameras happened to be rolling in his face.)

Burns was content to just scratch the superficial surface of local fandom, regrettably managing to add yet more inertia to the unfortunate cliché of the Tortured / Maligned / Fatalistic Red Sox Fan. Spokesfans like Goodwin and Barnicle continue to spout their tired retrospective narratives of agony because that is what they believe people want to hear. It is a mindset that the media has projected onto Red Sox fans for decades and continues to be exacerbated by a handful of people who cannot stand to be ignored. Part of Burns’ job is to temper exaggeration in the name of historical context.

In the end, Barnicle’s anecdote about his 11-year-old son standing on his seat at the end of Game 7 in New York is telling not because it perfectly captures how it felt to be a Red Sox fan on that October night, but because father and son were surrounded by thousands of other elated people who were jumping just as high with joy. Unfortunately, when everyone is screaming at the top of their lungs, some people will do anything to stand out.

One response to “Well-Connected Ken Burns Apparently Knows Only Two Red Sox Fans

  1. Wow…thanks for capturing so eloquently what I thought I was feeling as I once again saw the 10th inning tonight. I’m in Chicago but kept thinking, wait a minute, that Goodwin woman was in the first series and crying all about the Dodgers, now she’s a lifelong suffering Red Sox Fan? Same with that Barnicle feature—I know plenty of folks in the Boston area having worked for DEC years ago and Burns couldnt find anyone else, but Barnicle, who even I know like Goodwin, was up on Plagiarism charges. Either way, thanks for what you wrote as I was sitting here, twice now, thinking, do I have this wrong, Goodwin was a Dodgers fan and they couldnt find anyone else but these two, and little Timmy makes three, to represent whom a Red Sox fan is? So I googled Barnicle and Baseball and up popped your story. Excellent reading, thanks.

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