WE DID IT, and we’re back. Homage to Fenway Park has been paid, and it was unforgettable. You know how anticipation is so often better than the real thing? Not the case here. Walking into that great old ballpark felt like a collision of past and present, with emotions stronger than I have ever experienced at a sporting event. Certainly it had a lot to do with the history of the venue, but there was also an amazing feeling of occasion.
The hundreds of red-shirted people we followed from the subway spilled out onto Yawkey Way where a blues band thumped away and souvenir shops were already doing a frantic business. Counter to the corporate feel one gets at a Yankees or Dodgers game, there was celebration simply for being there, and being there with a full house that has gone on for more than seven straight seasons (Again, the comparison to the woeful attendance at Dodger Stadium was unavoidable. Plus, at first pitch every seat was filled.)
It was wild, but civilized. No one got roughed up in the stands. There were no air horns blasting away, nor any nutty noisemakers, at least not within earshot of where we were sitting. Instead, during the break in the sixth inning, 37,000 people joined in singing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” even insisting on moving on to a second verse while play on the field was held up. It was that kind of crowd.
Ha! And get this: there were even vendors who brought hot dogs to your seat! Another one of those specialties that are not within my experience.
I know: rave, rave, rave. But really, you had to be there. For sure, there doubtless wasn’t a single fan who could not have regaled you with changes to the lineup that he would suggest, given the opportunity, like a couple of guys sitting behind us. The bottom line, nonetheless, was a sense of ownership and pride in the team on the field.
So what we got for the money was a refreshing lack on cynicism for three hours time, and that, I hardly need to tell you, is a rare commodity in our day. And no politics, no complaints, just the joy of a game that was played hard, but was, in fact, simply a game.
There are people who regard baseball as something as a metaphor for life, given both its purity and finality (strike three and you’re out, and so forth). I can’t say that I’d make such a strong comparison, unless you included foul balls. But it is nine innings of often complicated endeavor that entails members of a team who pursue specialized jobs, with an outcome that’s never concluded until that final out: hope springs eternal.
And the complicated part? Try explaining the national pastime to someone who has never seen the game before, especially when you get to the infield fly rule. Once, long ago, I did…or tried to.