Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Marginalizing Red Sox Fans

The Red Sox are religion in New England.

How many times have you heard that?

If you think that all it means is that the fans are passionate then you probably should stick to books beginning with "Once upon a time..."

Let's start with the religion accusation.

I mistakenly thought that the Red Sox 2004 World Series victory would end the lunacy that is Red Sox fanaticism. I was dead wrong. It's crazier than ever. Then again, only a Moron predicts rational behavior from the jokers up here.

Everywhere you go, at all times of the day, you will see Red Sox fans in their gear. Sure there are lots of Steelers shirts in Pittsburgh and whacked out cheeseheads in Wisconsin, but it's way worse here. People that shouldn't be draped in sports jerseys and caps, like adults and nubile women, see nothing wrong with going to church and out on the town in what I consider clown attire. I know football season is life for many Philadelphia Eagles fans as it is for many college football towns, but baseball drags on, EVERYDAY, for more than half the year. It's an eternity if you count spring training and the playoffs.

A year or two ago I was at the Ninety-Nine Restaurant in Charlestown, Mass. On an April Friday afternoon, my buddy asked the bartender to change one of the numerous televisions to the Masters. Some locals across the bar went absolutely bonkers - almost to the point of belligerence - because we wanted to see Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson compete in a major over a meaningless Red Sox spring training game. (Of course Charlestown is an interesting little place; it's a 50-50 clash of small dog toting yuppies and grizzled old townies.)

I can't scientifically prove that Sox fans are crazier than ever though I will offer my anecdotal best. First of all, at $48 on average per seat, Fenway Park tickets are the most expensive in all of America; they are going on something like 400 straight sellouts. Secondly, I offer up three people I have known for a long time - including my father - who have gotten noticeably nuts over the Red Sox over the last few years. When I was a kid, my dad couldn't care less about "those bums". Now the game simply has to be on, either on the radio, or on the boob tube even if he's at someone else's place. The same applies to my other two acquaintances - for all the years I have known them, only recently have they become diehard Red Sox Idiots.

Last weekend I went to a family reunion to meet some distant cousins for the first time. They had a very nice barbeque going, a large pool, etc. Some of these cousins I didn't even get to meet as they were burrowed inside watching a worthless Red Sox game. Others were lingering in the pool house on this beautiful sunny day also staring at the game on TV. This is the theme throughout New England. If the Sox are playing, NESN is on in almost every house. We left that cookout to go to another celebrating my grandparents' 66th wedding anniversary. Of course the "game" was the centerpiece of that event when we arrived as well - that is until I turned it off and guilted everyone into socialization.

The sad thing is, the fans here actually brag about how passionate they are. Retired pitcher Bruce Hurst bolted out of Beantown years ago for the greener grass of the San Diego Padres. Later on he lamented that he missed the zeal of Boston fans. This is the type of propaganda talking point that makes Sox fans proud, is repeated endlessly among the booboisie and in the Boston Globe, and it is, quite frankly insane.

I see these 25 and 30 year old guys out at bars wearing their Manny Ramirez shirts and I really pity them. First of all, how stupid are these tools? Do you think the ladies will swoon with affection for a dude in an official MLB jersey? Hey Susie, look at that hottie there in the Johnny Damon shirt...What do you think, he's a successful entrepreneur with his own business or lives with his mom?

Can you imagine a studly John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever dancing in his mirror before the big Friday night out - wondering whether he looks better in his home or away Thurman Munson shirt?

I can't.

I once heard an inane discussion on sports radio about what the rules were, age-wise and whatnot, for wearing a team's shirt in public. Actually, I believe I heard this debate separately on both WFAN (New York) and WEEI (Boston). On one of the stations they concurred that "season ticket holders" have a freer rein to dress like a twelve year old boys than the rest of the fans.

Check out this 50 year-old LOSER that sat in front me at a Celtics-Lakers game last year. Nice shirt pal - it really shows off your triceps!

Listen up Red Sox fans, your impassioned pride IS NOT a cause for admiration, it is a badge of LOSERHOOD.

Here are a couple of more examples of Red Sox pagan worship that I mined from the web.

First up is a Jewish guy who decided to revisit his long since forgotten temple because one weekend it got to house the 2004 World Series Trophy. They had never allowed flash photography in the 'gog for Bar Mitzvahs or Rosh Hashanah but an exception was made for this pagan trophy. What priorities!

A Little Old Time Religion

I've heard the talk about the Red Sox being the true religion of New Englanders, and always thought the notion was a bit overblown. Until I saw the World Series trophy in my synagogue.

It was strange to see this sight in the place where I had my Bar Mitzvah service fifteen years ago. However, it gave me pause to consider that it took the presence of this item to bring me back to my synagogue for the first time in perhaps three years. Why is it, I wondered, that I was more inspired to go to temple by the World Series trophy than by the promise of spiritual nourishment? Am I lazy, or irredeemably secular? Or did I feel that I got something from the experience of following professional sports that I was not truly getting here? When I think of my Red Sox memories, they're not just about games watched; they're about experiences with friends and family, stretching back almost as far as I can remember.

Rabbi David Myer led the congregation—mainly families, most dressed in Red Sox garb of one sort or another—in a prayer of thanksgiving. As Rabbis are wont to do, he engaged in a short etymological discussion meant to illuminate a larger point. The word "religion," he explained, is derived from "ligament"...as in, the connective tissue that holds us together.

It made sense to put this most secular activity—professional sports—into the context of religious celebration. I had indeed felt a deep sense of connection with strangers at religious services, as I had in the stands of Fenway Park. In our society of increasingly alienated individuals, that kind of connection is profoundly valuable. But Dr. Charles Steinberg, the Red Sox vice president who has ushered the prized artifact around on its pilgrimage, had a more lofty agenda. He made the case for the World Series championship as a genuine miracle. Not a secular miracle, like the gold medal for hockey in the 1980 Olympics. An honest to goodness, old fashioned, Red Sea parting miracle.

Dr. Steinberg compared the Sox' eight consecutive postseason wins with the story of Hanukah, in which a day's worth of holy oil was said to illuminate the temple's flame for the eight days it took to bring in some more.

"If [the team] stopped believing, they would not have won Game Four [of the American League Championship Series versus the Yankees]," he said from the bimmer. "The candle would have gone out. The oil would have run out. But the miracle wound up lasting eight days. It could only have come from above."

Next up is another guy demonstrating the infectious nature of hope. He saw in the Red Sox's improbable championship, a divine omen that the world was morphing into utopia, i.e. that John Kerry would defeat President Bush in the 2004 election. This perhaps bears filing in the Hillary Homerun category.

Is the Supreme Being a Red Sox Loving Democrat?

Either way, from the standpoint of a Red Sox loving democrat, this impossible victory must be cause for hope. Because if the Boston Red Sox can beat the New York Yankees, after coming back from a three game deficit, in the seventh game of the American League pennant series, and win it in the house that Ruth built, then surely the democrats can beat the republicans, after coming back from a bad supreme court ruling, in the final weeks of this election campaign, and win it in the house the George stole.

No matter how you look at it – as either a sign from the Supreme Being or as powerful tale of hope against hope – it was a sign. I’m sure of it.

And the last example I gleaned in about two minutes of browsing was this - some nerd professor type arguing for the academic certification of baseball as a religion in America.

Curses and Catharsis in Red Sox Nation: Baseball and Ritual Violence in American Culture

In this essay I would like to revisit the legend of the Curse of the Bambino for the insights it can provide scholars of American religion on the allegedly religious dimension of baseball. The Winter 1996 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, which was devoted entirely to a discussion of religion and American popular culture, featured a now-widely-cited essay by David Chidester arguing for the inclusion of America’s favorite game in the academic study of religion.1 Chidester put forward a functionalist argument to advance the cause, echoing similar cases made years earlier by such notable scholars of religion as Catherine L. Albanese, Allen Guttmann, and Joseph L. Price.2 For these scholars, baseball exhibits a distinctive set of myths, rituals, and codes of behavior–the formal elements of “official” religions–that function to unite a community of participants/believers and orient them to an atemporal social and cosmic order.

Hah! "Myths, rituals, and codes of behavior..." and rabbis calling the win a "genuine miracle".

Okay now that I think I have sufficiently established my premise I want to scaffold up to my larger point. Consider the following quote:

Organized religion does not invent superstition, it checks it. (Will Durant)

Now bear in mind, generally speaking, organized religion does not exist up here in New England. Jews are less pious than elsewhere, Catholicism is a joke, if you remember I had godparents at my daughter's group Baptism wearing New England Patriots attire on the altar, and Protestantism also exists in its weakest form of anywhere in the country - congregations are so desperate for members that the gay friendly rainbow is on a lot of Protestant roadside signage. To boot, John Taylor Gatto has documented how Boston always had a vacant spiritual heritage - specifically, a disaffected Calvinism going back through the early 1800s. In his books he tells of a forlorn, childless culture that initiated mass compulsory schooling in a perverse effort to fill these voids.

Sure Fenway is an awesome ballpark and sure, the Curse of the Bambino was an intoxicating/nauseating legend. But I maintain that the real draw of being a Red Sox fan is that it provides a sense of meaning and purpose for an otherwise harried and irreligious populace. Reality can be stomached each day by checking the box scores and seeing that the Sox won last night and the Yankees lost...

Sports fanaticism is everywhere really about vicarious heroism and mental escapism. How many millions of fans go to bed each night dreaming about their team, potential trades, the unlimited prospects of their talented rookies? Ask yourself, when your career, marriage, and/or social life have gotten rocky have you deflected your depression by rooting for your favorite team? Looking back, I certainly did.

Here's some healthy advice - if your marriage is rocky or your job dreadful...you might want to work DIRECTLY on the problems. A pennant won't really solve them.

It's like these Deranged Dog People. I would say that roughly 90% of the people I know who put off marriage or childrearing ran out and filled that void with a dog. It's not that Red Sox fans are inherently losers or heathens, their fanaticism is just a natural consequence of human nature. People have always yearned for meaning and direction in their lives. As the famous quote goes,

A man who ceases to believe in God will believe in anything.

Now I am not one of these art museum types that always hated sports. I too have been afflicted with sports fanaticism for most of my life. It's only now that I have become wise as to the reasons why. Once I had a baby, suddenly shows like Pardon the Interruption that I made time for everyday, started to look very, very silly. I got to thinking that soon enough I will be old and grey and will be looking back on my life. I get very depressed thinking about how much of my valuable time, how many hours, days, and years I have spent watching athletes jostle over a ball.

Here's another small point. Today the masses aren't sports fanatics - they are spectating sports fanatics. People don't play football, baseball, and basketball, they mere watch others do so. If anything, it is exercise by proxy - kind of like the executive massage where someone else is doing all the work. So yes, athletics are full of virtues, but that would be if one was actually a participant.

I believe Ancient Greece at its incipience was marked by EVERYONE wrestling, racing, boxing, throwing the javelin, etc. However, the decline of this great culture coincided with a move away from popular sports participation to, like our present day society, mere athletic spectating.

So I want my millions of blog readers to ask themselves, what is more important to you - your family, career, and your epitaph or your team winning the title?

I say try to go a week without watching ESPN or checking a box score and see what happens.

Heretofore I have had "Boston Celtics" listed on my Blogger profile as an "interest". I just deleted it because I know realize it's embarrassing to define myself as demoralized pagan would. (Also, today is a suitable day to jump ship on the Celtics, given that asinine trade they just made for Kevin Garnett.)

The increasingly arrogant Bill Simmons insists that since the Sox have finally won a title he can now "die in peace." He's hardly alone with that sentiment.

To all these knuckleheads I'd like to interject that one must first have a life in order to die.

(The other faux religion up here, fertilized by the exact same causes, is of course pagan earth-worshipping - or as it's euphemized, "environmentalism".)


Anonymous said...

Was in Rome a couple of weeks ago and saw three people wearing Sox gear. Couldn't believe it. No Yankees Phillies etc Weird!!

CaptiousNut said...

I'll bet they skipped the Vatican!!!