I have a friend in Boston. He is very successful. Whenever I visit him, he picks me up at the Boston airport and it is always crowded and we drive on the Boston expressway which is always crowded and we go to a Boston restaurant and wait for a table because it, too, is crowded, and he talks about the new hotels and the new office buildings and theater and concerts and blah, blah, blah, and so I take the ketchup and dump it in his lap. Because the point is this: Boston is getting too big for its own good.

Which is where Detroit comes in.

“That’s right, Beantown,” I say, opening the door to the Red Sox team bus, “welcome to the City of Humility. You have a problem. We are here to help. Your problem is you want to be this cute little college town and you want to be New York City, too. You can’t be both. Sorry.”

We will teach you why. We will begin with baseball. For years the Red Sox were a team which always blew it, a team which lost a World Series with a ball through the legs, a team to which the average slob could relate.

A good team for Boston.

But now? Whoa. Look at them. They want to win everything, right now, New York-style. They want the pennant wrapped for takeout, with a pickle on the side. They have captured 18 of 19 games since the All-Star break and today they zoom into Motor City for a five-game series as if it’s one more stop on the gravy train. To which we say: Ha.

This is Detroit, fellas.

Pop goes your bubble.

Remember who you are, Red Sox,” I say, as they barrel into the clubhouse and begin ripping off their clothes. “You are a baseball team with more than 50 games left. Pace yourselves. This is not the Lightning Round. Or, as Sparky Anderson would say, ‘I ain’t never seen no pennant given out in August.’ “

Sparky has been around a long time. So has his team. His first-place team.

Look at those faces. Darrell Evans. Doyle Alexander. Pat Sheridan. These are not faces on the way to the prom. These are veterans, you could throw a cherry bomb in their locker and they’d just move over to the next one. Veterans? Check out Guillermo Hernandez. He has been around so long, he’s on his second name.

So what if they aren’t hitting right now? The Tigers are in no rush. They know the only day that counts in a major league season is the day after it is all over. Unlike you, Red Sox, who are charging through this second half the way John Belushi went through the cafeteria in “Animal House,” stuffing submarine sandwiches into his mouth. Hey. Fellas. Slow down before you burp yourselves to death.

Mike Greenwell. Ellis Burks. Roger Clemens. Didn’t you ever read the
“Tortoise and the Hare”? Aren’t we setting up the exact same scenario? On the one hand, we have this incredibly hot baseball team that cannot stop pounding the ball over the fences and pitching 100 miles per hour and scoring 11 runs when the other team scores 2. And on the other hand, we have a team which looks at the scoreboard and says “Well, they haven’t scored yet. Why should we?”

Go ahead. Laugh. You know what I see? I see a weary Red Sox team in late September.

Which is where Detroit comes in.

Pop goes your bubble.

Listen to me,” I say, as the Red Sox go scrambling toward the field like mice, “don’t you recognize this city? This is where your Boston Celtics died. Remember? They came in like jolly green giants waving championship banners and . . . “

Ooops.

Did the Pistons mess that up for you? Gee. Are we sorry! Nah. I lied. We’re not sorry. We’d do it again. In four games. Because your team came in with the wrong attitude. They learned their lesson.

By the way, you can pick up their bodies on your way out. They’re starting to smell.

Know where you are, Boston. This is not your waterfront, where the 70-story office buildings go up next to the 70-story convention centers. This is not your downtown, where traffic is so crazy that one day the expressways will tighten like a pretzel and choke the whole city to death. This is not Harvard Square, where high-tech yuppies and backpacking graduate students crowd into vegetarian restaurants to pay $14 for a plate of beets.

No. This is Detroit, a workingman’s town, where folks know the meaning of tradition, the value of hard labor, and the joy of steak and potatoes at the end of the day. We win baseball games the old-fashioned way:

By a run.

And a run will be enough. You will find that out, when all those homers and .300 averages begin to drag you down. Oh, maybe not this series. Maybe not next weekend in Fenway. But by the end. Which, as Jack Morris and Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker can tell you, is when it counts. They actually won one of those World Series, you know.

And it wasn’t in 1918.

Personally, I don’t know why the Red Sox had to change. I kind of liked the old lovable, meandering group that broke their fans’ hearts year after year. Hey. Guys. You should have stuck with it. You were due.

Instead, we get this New York Power Drive imitation. Why? Shakespeare said: “To thine own self be true.” You’d think you’d have read that, Boston, what with all those libraries around.

No problem. We will rephrase it. In Sparky talk:

“Ain’t nobody won nuthin yet.”

Pop goes your bubble.

One day you’ll thank us for this.

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