Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fan Friendly

The following article also appears at Firebrand.


In June, Dan Shaughnessy wrote this article for the Globe Magazine, about the way things have changed in Boston sports since 1990. Can you find the absolutley ridiculous part of the following excerpt from it?

"From Havana to Haverhill, from St. Petersburg to St. Peter's Square, you will see Red Sox caps in the crowd. And if you go to a Sox game in Tampa, Baltimore, or Oakland, you will find yourself surrounded by thousands of like-minded road trippers whose cheers can drown out the home team's fans to a demoralizing degree. About the only place that truly feels like a road game is Yankee Stadium."

Did you catch it? Surely I'm not the only one who's noticed the thousands of Red Sox fans who go to every Yanks-Sox game in The Bronx. Or the chants of "Let's go Red Sox" around the entire park that Yankee fans have trouble drowning out. Since I was a three-year old in 1979, I've been going to see the Sox in The Bronx, and I'm consistently surrounded by other Red Sox fans. So how does this "truly feel like a road game"?

I was confused and disappointed by Dan saying this. (But isn't that the natural reaction to almost everything he writes?)

Two weeks later, I noticed something similar at Surviving Grady (my emphasis):

"I think it all started at Camden Yards. Then it spread to Toronto. It popped up in Chicago and Tampa. Other than the Bronx, it is everywhere. Red Sox fever. It seems like whatever stadium the Sox visit, the 'Let's Go Red Sox' chant can be heard."

Is it possible that Steinbrenner really is using memory-erasing techniques on us? What's next, a Herald story about the Yanks' four-game sweep over the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS? Granted, there have been a few recent games at Yankee Stadium where there were slightly fewer Sox fans in attendance than usual, due to George's tightening of the group sales rules. But for the most part, as long as I've been going there, we've always had a big showing behind the ultimate enemy's lines.

While I know they meant no harm, what SG said is even more disappointing to me than Shaughnessy's quote, because it helps perpetuate the myth that people are becoming Red Sox fans because they won the World Series. I've been hearing media-types say "Ever since 2004, you get a lot of Red Sox fans in the opponents' parks." This ticks me off to no end. Of course there are going to be bandwagoners, but I don't think there are that many in this case. People understand that being a Red Sox fan isn't something you become on a whim. Those that don't, well, I'm sure they had their fun being a fake fan for a few weeks in October of '04, and have since moved on with their lives, buying Miami Heat shirts or whatever.

There's no doubt the Red Sox are, and have been for a few years, a really fun team. If anything, I think they, along with the new ownership, have brought some people to Fenway Park who were always Sox fans, but for one reason or another, had stopped caring as much as they had before. But I don't think "Red Sox fever" is the reason you see so many Sox fans at opposing ballparks.

When I travel to see the Sox, everyone I see and meet in a Sox hat seems to be a die-hard fan who goes out of their way to plan trips to see the team play in other cities. This has been going on since the Royal Rooters went to then "H"-less Pittsburg for the road games of the 1903 World Series. Granted, at certain times it's been easier to get into Fenway than at others. During those times, it wasn't necessary to travel hundreds of miles to see the team. But it still happened, and there are also, of course, displaced New Englanders all over the country. I remember listening to games in the 80s, and hearing about all the Sox fans in Anaheim, the only ones left in the stadium after the seventh inning, after the laid-backies split for the valley.

When I left Connecticut to go to college in Nebraska in 1993, the first thing I did was figure out the nearest baseball city, and check the schedule. A few weeks later, I'd scored a ride to Kansas City. I'll never forget telling one of the young Sox fans around me at Kauffman Stadium that if she really wanted Mike Greenwell's attention, she should yell "Gator."

When my mom took a trip to LA in the mid-nineties, she saw that the Sox were in Anaheim, and also grabbed a seat right by Greenwell for a game, reporting a big New England contingent. (When I recently asked her if she had pictures from that game, she replied, "The Clemens against Jim Abbot game?" "You remember the pitchers," I asked. "How could I forget," she said, "one guy had one hand and the other one was Roger Clemens.")

When in Philly a few months ago at the Sox-Phils game, during a "Let's go Red Sox" chant, a dude behind me mumbled something to his friend about the 2004 "bandwagon." I wanted to whip around and yell at the guy, "You think we'd let 'em on? I was at the Vet in 2003, and there were just as many Red Sox fans there."

It's not about the winning with the Red Sox. It never was. If it had been, there wouldn't have been so many of us before the championship. It's about the love of a team... whose home games consistently sell out. It just makes sense to me: "I can drive to Cleveland to see the Sox and get a box seat for only thirty bucks? What a deal!" "But Jere, what about the gas it takes to get there?" "You don't understand, thirty bucks! I'd give a hundred bucks for the chance to see the Red Sox at that price!"

I guess what I'm really concerned about is the thought of other teams' fans resenting us, and worse, grouping us together with Yankee fans. But we're nothing like Yankee fans. By nature, most of them are front-runners. Anyone who wasn't born into rooting for them is choosing the team with far more championships than any other. Hell, most of our fans can't be bandwagoners by definition, since up until 2004, there was no bandwagon to jump on. We all came to your park to proudly support a perennial loser. Yankee fans would've quickly gone over to the Mets' side long before 86 years went by, I can tell you that for sure.

Look, opposing teams' fans, we Sox fans aren't coming into your stadiums to make you angry. We just love our team. And we love your team, so long as they're not the Yanks. (Though the White Sox and Devil Rays haven't been so "lovable" lately.) Welcome us to your park, as we welcome you at Fenway, and nobody's gonna get hurt. We're all in this together as the non-Yankees of baseball. We have the second biggest payroll, yes, but don't believe the (Steinbrenner-induced?) hype. The Yanks can get any player they want, and then replace that player with any other player if he doesn't work out. No other team has that luxury.

So let's all join hands and sing and dance, knowing we all share a common goal of seeing the Yankees lose.

Am I being idealistic? Well, we are talking about a world where the person who can hit a ball with a stick the farthest is considered a "hero"...

Comments:
Great article Jere. Frustration, yell out loud bewilderment about the make up of Yankee fans, or other teams can be inserted in place. And this....

"Well, we are talking about a world where the person who can hit a ball with a stick the farthest is considered a "hero"..."

And that wonderful bit of your writing is so true, and has been since near the beginning of the last century, the century that we know the best. Well done. Good job. Whatever. The Red Sox, right now on August 10, in the year 2006, need Curt Schilling to climb onto that mound and just plain dominate. Looking forward to your next guest article at FB, where I didn't leave a comment because I read it here. Take care.
 
Jere, this is so well-done, I don't know where to start.

You've said everything I've wanted to say for a long time.

I'm so glad you got this out there. Thank you!
 
And thank you both!
 
I disagree with you on almost every point.

No need to thank me. :)
 

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