Every period of time, every generation, has its own unique identity. As a result, there are behaviors and trends that permeate not only pop culture, but society as a whole. The “greatest generation” had their pursuit of the American Dream, the “flower children” their protesting, civil disobedience and pursuit of civil rights. The current generation is marked firstly by its ever-expanding capacity for technology, especially social media. Among those engaged in social media, there is one who stands above all. One who drives conversation, who starts discussions, who bravely and selflessly puts themselves in harm’s way for a good argument that will continue, without a victor, until the next topic is broached. I, of course, am referring to…The Troll.
In order to trace the legacy of the Troll, we need to go no further than the latest subject in our Honoring Boston Legends series- Dan “Shank” Shaughnessy. Dan began writing, covering sports, in Boston in the early 1980’s. Before twitter, he was trolling Bostonians by the thousand every morning in the Boston Globe. Instead of merely covering the sport, he would turn his focus onto the fans, specifically inciting them; a tradition he continues almost 40 years later.
Take a look here, he rips the entire city of Cleveland, then goes on TV saying he loves the city, and picks the Cavs to win, driving Boston fans nuts. Masterful.
Do you have a popular team in town, garnering universal praise for their on- and off-field performance, decision making and general organizational behaviors? Brace yourself for the upcoming Shank piece, questioning the blind loyalty, citing some fairly innocuous incident as the catalyst.
Is there a player or coach everyone is seemingly in agreement on- good or bad? Well, get ready for Shaughnessy to come at you, saying you’re all wrong. David Ortiz is done. Tom Brady’s legacy is tarnished….it’s never ending. Dan even hated Schilling before it was a thing to hate Schilling.
In addition to these tried and true premises, Dan has a few go to “templates” that he uses. The Tomato Cans, the “Boston has the Freedom Trail, (fill in the blank city) has (something seemingly less impressive)” playoff preview. Fans and haters come out in unison and criticize Shank for continuing to go to the well, but they’re missing the point. That’s EXACTLY why he’s doing it…the column itself isn’t the point, its very existence is only to drive you nuts. Next. Level. Trolling.
This past baseball season, with a masterful stroke, Dan turned the Sox fan base upside down regarding pitcher David Price. Over the course of a few months he wrote columns alternately ripping and then supporting Price. It culminated in a piece that seemed to support Price- saying it’d be a great redemption for him to succeed in the playoffs. But the subtext was clear: “Let’s all get behind him, because when he fails spectacularly again on the post season stage, we can really let loose on him all winter”. That’s some classic Shaughnessy greatness.
A career of writing antagonistic and contrarian columns alone, doesn’t make Dan the Founding Father of trolls. Nor does his long history of taking his takes on the road, appearing on countless radio shows throughout the years to battle callers in real time. No, what ascends Shank to King is a little book he wrote in 1990.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the term “Curse of the Bambino”. While that phenomenon had been tossed about for years, it wasn’t until Shaughnessy released The Curse of the Bambino, that the phrase became commonly used. Think about that for a second. A guy born and raised a Boston sports fan, writes an entire book with the sole purpose of rubbing Red Sox fans’ faces in the fact that their beloved team hadn’t won- in often spectacular fashion- in over 70 years, and then ripping them for clinging to “a curse” which was only something that was generally tongue-in-cheek in the first place. You, my man, have Le Cap’s heart.
Join me in saluting, and honoring Dan “Shank” Shaughnessy, the latest Boston Legend.
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