I go to school in Boston… okay not in Boston but in Chestnut Hill, Mass which is basically Boston. I know a guy with the Red Sox ‘B’ tattooed on his calf, with the numbers of every retired player in Red Sox history orbiting it. There is a kid who lives in my house off campus with me who, honest to God, wears some sort of Red Sox paraphernalia to class every day.
And on the weekends he wears that fitted hat with the two offset red socks on it. Haven’t seen it before? Don’t worry, I have plenty of ridiculous Red Sox gear visuals seared into my mind that I am happy to share whenever you’d like me to.
Don’t get me wrong, it is cool to be in a city where the home team is playing for a World Championship. And as a baseball fan I appreciate that. However, I am not a Sox fan. Their fans tend to really bother me actually. Last season (2012) when I was working in Seattle over the summer at a Sox-Mariners game, there were more Boston fans than Seattle fans.
I talked to as many of them as I could, mentioning I went to school in Boston and at some point discreetly asking them two questions:
1) Are you from Boston?
2) How long have you been a fan?
Of the 75 or so Red Sox fans I interacted with that day, how many would you guess were from the city of Boston (or the general metropolitan area)? 20? 15? 7? 3? You’re all wrong, not-a-one hailed from the city of Boston. In fact, only one person I talked to was even from the state of Massachusetts.
The second question though was really the one that cracked me up. Or irked me. Or maybe both. If I was asked that question about the Mariners, I would probably answer: “since I was playing catch for the first time and pretended to be Tom Lampkin because my dad is his cousin” or something like that. That would pin me at around 1998.
About 50-60% of the Boston fans I met would nonchalantly say: “the early 2000s, maybe around ’03 or ’04.
Aha! They thought they could throw me off their scent by adding 2003 to the mix. Most of these people had become fans when the Sox made the miraculous and improbable run to the World Series in 2004. Some would call this bandwagoning, a popular theory of fandom in Major League Baseball. But am I mad they are Boston fans? No not really. To be honest, I wish the Mariners could do something crazy, make it to the playoffs and win the World Series (duh that was a stupid thing to say). Because it is great to get those arbitrary, bandwagon fans to jump on board and ride it out until the very end. It creates fond memories, and sometimes even births all new Mariners fans.
Like this postseason I was pulling for the Pirates all the way. They had a great story, vibe, and desire throughout the organization. That is what baseball is all about. The love of the game and being fortunate enough to witness something miraculous.
But I am getting off track. What I really want to talk about is how much fun it is to watch a sporting event and NOT be one of the people emotionally invested in the success or the failure of either team.
Last night me and my housemates stayed home to watch the first game of the World Series– and by the way I live in a house with 10 other guys. Three people are die-hard Sox fans. One guy was born in St. Louis and roots for the Cardinals and is also big and scary– if you ever meet him don’t dare trying to fight him. There is one Yankees fan (booo!). One Mariners fan (me, yay me! Or poor me I guess). One kid is from Australia, I’m not even really sure if he knows what baseball is. One Mets fan: yes, misery does love company. And lastly we have three guys in the house who don’t really care for baseball. Which is stupid I know.
The heated exchanges got started with a bang in the first inning when Pete Kozma tried to turn a double play and ‘bobbled the transfer’ according to the umps. He was rewarded the out at second, even though the ball literally never touched the inside of his mitt. Before the call was reviewed, I thought the three Sox fans were gonna explode. “Are the umps f*#&@kidding me?” “My sister could have seen that, and I don’t even have a sister!” Along with plenty of other, less politically correct statements.
The Cardinals fan, one of the nicest (but remember, scariest!) guys I know wasn’t playing into their hand though. He was politely agreeing that it was a bad call. Man don’t you just hate it when a tension-filled confrontation doesn’t boil over between friends over a sporting event?
Unfortunately, last nights game wasn’t one for trash talk, bantering back and forth, mixed with some pointed insults and down-to-the-wire finger crossing. The Sox blew the Cardinals, and Adam Wainwright, out of the water last night. The Cards looked like a Triple-A team out there. A score of 8-1 is not the line you want to see at the end of a Game One in a series that is supposed to be an “instant classic”.
As the series progresses, I hope the games get closer and the calls get bigger because it is fun to watch intense, meaningful games with intense, meaningful fans.
That is something Mariners fans need more than anything else: a team to root for when September and October finally roll around. A team to get in bar fights for. A team to laud while crapping on the dreams of others. A team to be proud of.
But for this season, I have to resort to living vicariously through my friends and the city I live in. They love their teams like Mariners fans love the Mariners.
Only this year (and for the last decade), they have had something meaningful to cheer for.
Stay tuned for more posts on the series– hopefully the games get more competitive so that I have plenty of ridiculous stories to tell. Because, let’s face it, baseball is all about the memories. After all, it is still America’s Favorite Pastime.