When Manny Ramirez finished his nine-minute media session on Oct. 18, 2007 in the Jacobs Field visitors' clubhouse, most who had listened in were left rolling their eyes and shaking their heads.
It probably wasn't all that different from when Tuukka Rask finished his Zoom call Thursday night.
It was the off-day just prior to the Red Sox' Game 5 showdown with the Indians in the American League Championship Series. The players were getting ready for their workout, trying to decipher a way to orchestrate a comeback from the 3-1 series deficit they had dug themselves. (Little did the media know but David Ortiz would be addressing his teammates following batting and field practice, passionately reminding the group that if you wore a Boston uniform you were a bad so-and-so.)
Even with Josh Beckett going for the visitors in the next game, optimism among the media and fan base regarding a Red Sox resurgence was not high. Eventual American League Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia was going for an Indians club that had just handled Terry Francona's team in the previous three games, the last two coming before a raucous Cleveland crowd.
So when Ramirez spoke, it felt at the time like a verbal white flag.
"Why should we panic? We’ve got a great team," he said. "If it doesn’t happen, (fine), we’ll come next year and try to do it again. ... We’re confident every day. It doesn’t matter how things go for you. We’re not going to give up. We’re just going to go and play the game, like I’ve said, and move on. If it doesn’t happen, so who cares. There’s always next year. It’s not like the end of the world or something. Why should we panic?"
He later added, "We’re just here to have fun, play the game, and that’s it. We’ll go play hard, and if things don’t come like they’re supposed to come, we’ll move on. We’ll come next year."
What happened the next day was a Red Sox win. And then another. And then another. In fact, they wouldn't lose again on the way to celebrating a World Series title in Denver exactly two weeks after Ramirez's proclamation.
After the fact, more than a few of Ramirez's teammates suggested Manny knew exactly what he was doing. It was Cedric Maxwell's "Climb on my back, boys!" speech during the 1984 NBA Finals (whether that happened or not), taking the heat off everyone else in the room with a statement considered so outrageous it distracted from the uphill climb that team was facing.
Who knows? Maybe. You can't argue with the results.
This is where we turn back to Rask.
Sports fans in Boston don't like apathy. You can fail, but if it appears as though you're doing so without the appropriate level of guilt there are going to be issues. That's why the Bruins' goalie probably wasn't the most popular of New England sports figures when Friday rolled around. And when it came to how his teammates felt about the comments, there isn't a lot to go by.
As was with the case with Ramirez, the ultimate determination regarding the unexpected verbiage will come down the line. The Red Sox won a World Series. The Bruins? Rask's actions -- not words -- will define that story.