Bill Janovitz on the Temperament of the Red Sox Fan Over Time

10/13/2009 12:33 PM |

Once I made some friends in the Boston suburbs, we would take the T or drive right in to Boston, walk up to the Fenway Park box office, and buy bleacher seats for about $8-10. But I was only there as a tourist. What a park! Right in the city, unlike Shea or even Yankee Stadium, which seemed like an outpost to me. Fenway, on the other hand, was right on the same block as rock clubs, vintage clothes stores and record shops. From that point on, the Kenmore area was a destination, like Wrigley. Thankfully, in 1986, I was in college when the Mets played the Sox and I didn’t care about the outcome at all. I was sort of in my DMZ baseball time. It was all about music and other stuff by that point.

It was touring with Buffalo Tom that brought me back to the game. All that time away made me realize that Boston really was my home. I was no longer a New Yorker first and foremost. We’d go to other countries and I would get swept up in the local sports traditions: gigs getting delayed while soccer games finished; going to local footie games in Chelsea; learning about cricket and rugby in Australia and New Zealand; witnessing the passionate loyalty and traditions. It seemed like growing up in the late 70s/early 80s where I was from, kids had to choose to be jocks or rock freaks. This was a stupid and false dichotomy and I realized I had been cheating myself of something I enjoyed. I realized this acutely when I was paying back an Australian buddy/tour manager who was in Boston watching the Sox on TV with me on a night off. (That’s the other thing: it was hard to monitor the local teams when we were away a lot). He had taught me the rules of cricket in Oz and as we watched the Sox, I explained baseball to him. It made me realize what a beautiful game it is. I got more and more into the Sox through the 1990s. My daughter was born in the spring of 1999 and I was home and up late every night. It was the first season I followed religiously since maybe the age of 10. Those were the peak years for Pedro, who still might be my favorite player of all time. And I haven’t looked back since then. I picked a good time to become a fan, though 2003 was brutal. I had friends, grown men, literally calling me and crying when Wake gave up the HR to Aaron Fucking Boone.

The L: By any measurable standard, the experience of Red Sox fandom has changed in recent years. The Epstein/Francona regime has resulted in two titles, and a consistent and competent, enviable contender. For long-time fans, does this represent an uncomplicated and welcome deliverance, or, on some level is the bounty too great? I am thinking of the oppressed Soviet citizen, accustomed to breadlines and rations, who is suddenly exposed to a great western-style supermarket and feels overwhelmed by anxiety.

BJ: This is a very pertinent question as of this writing. There is this idiotic contingent of longtime neanderthal fans who discern casual fans as “pink hats.” This refers to women wearing pink Sox hats, as “back in the day,” there was rarely any significant number of female fans at Fenway. But now that they do have a logical plan, competent management, responsible ownership, and balanced teams, they are winning. And now that they are winning, you have the Drew Barrymore effect (I still refuse to watch that movie myself, as she and Fallon polluted that glorious WS win by filming a fake scene during a real moment), the unbearable tradition of signing “Sweet Caroline” every night. Tix have gotten ridiculously expensive but sell out. So I sympathize with the old timers and the real ball fans. But they also have to loosen up. They act more like the beaten wife syndrome; a lot of flinching and waiting for bad shit to happen despite two WS in the past five years. Of course, I am sure I would qualify as a “pink hat” to some of them, due to my johnny-come-lately status (only an active fan since mid-1990s). And the reality is, I rarely watch any games other than Sox games. There are too many of those to justify me watching any more until post-season.

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