Monday, June 30, 2008

The Fake Stuff That's Been Going On

If you came from another planet this past week and only paid attention to the Boston sports media, you'd think Red Sox fans know nothing about baseball and don't know what to do at Fenway Park, which, by the way, is a horrible circus side show of a baseball park.

As someone who's constantly praising my own team's fanbase and ballpark, you can imagine how pissed I am about this. When you write something, you have to know the whole world is reading it, not just your local area. So when you make false accusations, the country reads it and thinks it's true. This is yet another reason I hate most media. These people aren't fans, they're critics. Whose opinion do you value more when you want to see a movie, your best friend who knows your tastes, or some stuffy critic?

When the Red Sox announced that they might be wearing green in honor of the Celtics' championship, a commenter on UniWatch said, "they always break out the green--St. Patrick's Day, Earth Day, Celtics championships...." I attempted to inform this person that St. Patrick's day always falls in spring training, that they wore merely a patch for Earth Day, and that they'd worn green for the Celtics (actually in honor of Red Auerbach) one time. Therefore, the guy took something that literally had happened ONE TIME IN OVER A HUNDRED YEARS in the regular season, and referred to it as happening as "all the time." This is an example of how our no-long-term-memory society works.

And it happened again this week with Sox fans and Fenway Park. Yes, I noticed that Fenway Park had a few pre-game ceremonies last week. Jerry Remy Day, celebrating the man's 20 years in the broadcast booth, and the yearly-ish Rousch racing day. Eric Wilbur turned this into "Fenway Park always does some cra-a-a-zy pre-game festival and..." well, I don't know what his point was, other than, Look, your team only cares about money and, um, announcers, and...Yankees rule! The point is, look at the whole league. Watch games at other parks. And in other sports. And then come back to Fenway and try to criticize it. Good luck.

We're talking about a team that's taking a historic park that so many people love, and doing everything they can to not only keep it around but improve it so it can be around for another hundred years. In an era where all the other parks are branded with corporate logos. Ours is a park that doesn't need giveaways. There's no magnetic keychain night, no fireworks shows. God forbid they use the hour break before the game when nothing's going on to give the fans some kind of pre-game festivity on occasion.

Maybe Eric's thing is T-shirt tosses and near-naked women dancing on the field between innings. Maybe he likes it when scoreboards put up a "noise meter" to try to get the crowd to cheer, or a da-da-da-da, da-daaaa, charge! sound effect. Maybe he would've liked it if we remodeled the park in the 70s to try to make it look like all the other cookie cutters, or built a new park made to look like all the other new-cookie cutters that we could call in association with Yards at Burger King Plaza.

I don't know what he's looking for, but if you want to see baseball as it was a century ago, at the major league level, the closest you're gonna get, by far and away, is Fenway Park.

Eric also takes that years-old, unoriginal side-jab at "Red Sox Nation" by reminiscing about the days before "people showed you their identification card to prove they're a fan." First of all, we're not stupid. We don't think that really happens. If anyone's witnessed this, email me and I'll send you a million dollars in cash. His point was (and right on time, too--this only started four years ago!) that he doesn't like how the RSN card appears to be some kind of proof of fandom and bla bla bla. For the millionth time, it's a fan club. If it were just a card that said you were a Red Sox fan, no one would buy it. And no one is buying it for that reason. The card is a membership card. To a fan club. Not a new premise. The Celtics have "Club Green," the Yankees have some club--Kiss has Kiss Army. The point of these things is: you join, and you get perks. The team sells it in a way that makes you feel "part of the club"--that's just marketing. Not one Red Sox fan thought, Oh, no, I better get this or I won't be "official," and not one non-Red Sox fan decided to become a fan by getting a card that says they're one.

My point is, people go around wearing Red Sox shirts and hats. Everybody at the game is wearing one or the other. Is this not a way to show everyone what team you like? If you're mad about people using a card to show they're a Sox fan (which, again, and I can't stress this enough, NO ONE DOES!), why aren't you super-pissed about everybody wearing 200-dollar "official" Red Sox jerseys?? This is where your theory is flawed. I win. The Red Sox Nation membership gets you tickets, merchandise,, etc., etc., and, least of all a little card that says you're "in the club." A 200-dollar jersey gets you, well, "in the club" without any of the perks. I'll take the membership--and I'll make my own jersey with a Sharpie. (And no, I don't have a membership--I got one the first year, so I could get more tickets, have more chances to buy tickets before others, and get the free mlb audio package since I was living outside the NESN area at the, what a stupid club to join, huh? And not once did I feel the need to run around showing anyone my card to "prove" I was a Sox fan.)

And that brings us to Red Sox fans. I did get to listen to what turned out to be "pink hat day" on WEEI, since I was in the car trying to find a softball field in Newton for about two hours. The hosts kept explaining how "pink hat" isn't gender specific, it has nothing to do with the color pink, and that it just refers to the casual or bandwagon fan. Yet people kept calling up literally defending their pink Red Sox gear, completely missing the point. But that tells you something. "Real" Red Sox fans who happen to have a pink or other off-team color Red Sox hat are offended by the term. And it is a sexist term. Because if you're referring to those bandwagon fans as the ones in the pink hats, well, considering 99% of men wouldn't wear a pink hat, you're basically saying, "female fans don't belong." (Funny, isn't that WEEI's corporate motto?) A caller made a great point, saying we should call them "top hats," because the business-people who get the front row tickets know nothing about the game. (But again, that's a lot more common elsewhere--look at the box seats at Yankee Stadium or the floor seats at MSG to see some serious suit-action.)

Now, going back to my earlier example of how people see one thing one time, and it turns into "that thing that happens all the time"--I heard somebody on that station talking about how a third of the crowd at Fenway left a game early last weekend. It was a thirteen inning game. Because of that one incident, the Fenway fanbase is suddenly a bunch of morons who leave games early? Sorry, not gonna happen. Another guy then was making a Yankee Stadium comparison, saying, "Yankee fans go to the games." Here I am, your pal Jere, who goes to LOTS of games, and also has seen a majority of Yankee games on TV or in person over the last 25 years, telling you, as I always have, (though I never thought I'd have to do it in a defending way), that it's the opposite. Red Sox fans go to the games, and stay to the end. Yankee fans go when they're winning, and leave early even then. I seriously can't believe the example that suddenly turned us into some kind of LA, leave-early, know-nothing fans was a game where people left in the THIRTEENTH INNING. Play thirteen innings at any park at any time, and the crowd will not be full at the end. You know, I remember tuning into that game in the 11th, and commenting to my mom how impressed I was at the size of the crowd, after all those innings in the hot sun. And because of the fact that some people perceived it as "everybody left," we're now a bunch of idiots.

People leave games early when it's too cold, too hot, too late, et cetera, no matter where you go. But again, if you want the most loyal fanbase, who never thinks a game is over (which we know is true after 2004, but which we always had faith was true before that, as is evidenced by the fact that the team's attendance has been above league average every year but two in the last 30-plus years), and doesn't arrive in the third and leave in the sixth, go nowhere else but Fenway Park.

Are there bandwagoners? Yes. Are there stupid fans who talk on their phones and miss the action on the field and don't know the rules? Yes. Can you buy a team hat that's green, purple, or pink? Yes. Are there a lot of corporation- and advertising-driven things that I don't like about even my team? Yes. Welcome to America! Look at every other city and team before you criticize the Red Sox and Fenway and Sox fans. You'll quickly realize how great you have it. To sum it up: new owners come in, Fenway gets improved, team wins two championships after none in 86 years. Media: complain, complain, complain--team sucks, fans suck, park sucks. You suck.

[For another take on this from another fan sick of all the misconceptions, check out Red Sox Chick's post from the other day.]

Nice piece, Jere. Unfortunately you're never going to sell newspapers if you're not willing to stir it up a little bit ... oh, I mean you need controversy to increase your readership so your advertisers can sell their ... oh, uh never mind.

Keep telling it like it is.
On a SLOW News Day, Media truly have NOTHING To Say.
'EEI=No Bastion Of Intelligent Talk
Great post, I really couldn't agree with you more about this stuff. I have definitely thought about each of these things myself (because at first, some stuff like those RSN cards seem sort of uncool).

Although I have to say that those green uniforms were truly ghastly. They don't ruin the team's reputation because that kind of thing is so unusual. But in a way it makes it worse that they are so rare -- them and those red unis stand out as aberrations in what is an otherwise dignified and consistent uniform style. The Sox are nowhere near as gimicky as nearly every other team, but I would prefer if they were totally beyond reproach.
Jere, the preceding comments were GREAT ones. But I have to tell you something, something serious. OK? It's not safe to send cash in the mail!
Hey, great post. Pete

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