The Providence Journal: April 2, 2010
New Englanders are arguably more fully engaged as fans of the Boston Red Sox than in any other endeavor in life. Ask the average man on the street what he’s thinking about, and you’ll sometimes get a line-by-line player analysis and critique of the team so staggeringly thorough as to be worthy of an IRS audit. For that matter, ask a woman the same question, and you’ll get an equal response, only kinder and gentler, and with attention to a favorite player’s good looks!
April is tax season, also sump-pump season, but, more importantly, it’s the perennial season of baseball that continues to excite and capture the imagination of most people in these parts. It defies rational explanation. Red Sox fandom is part article of faith, which the team has used to ceaselessly market itself with an advertising campaign titled Faith Rewarded. Ceaselessly being a complimentary business term. In an increasingly bottom-line tangible culture, the rewards of Red Sox Nation are intangible. No matter.
This year, Opening Night at Fenway Park, featuring the World Series Champion Yankees versus the Red Sox, falls on Easter Sunday. Or is it the other way around? While Easter is the most sacred holiday for Christians, New Englanders will spend more time on Sunday with the Red Sox than they will in church. Roughly 37,000 fans will attend the likely four-hour event in person, hundreds of thousands will listen on-line and by radio, and millions more will watch on the highest rated regional sports-television channel in America, NESN.
Bostonians, in particular, are increasingly obsessed with not only obscure baseball statistics and baseball math — but also with the characters and personalities of the players, what cars they drive, what they are wearing, and the soap opera that each season eventually now becomes.
Fueling this attention and scrutiny is the transparency of daily high-definition broadcasts of the game, the replays and slow motion of every pitch, and the way in which the faces of the players and their every movement on the field can be idolized, emulated, second-guessed, and ultimately ridiculed.
Nomar Garciaparra, the star of the team in the decade that preceded Faith Rewarded, only recently returned to the Red Sox fold, and retired as a member of the team. He had been estranged for years after getting “Bostoned out”, says manager Terry Francona.
The tipping point in Scott Brown’s U.S. Senate campaign, which became, at least for a while, a tipping point for American politics this year, came mere days before the vote, when Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley mistook Curt Schilling to be a Yankee fan instead of a Red Sox hero.
The resulting upset and improbable vote with its national political ramifications all stem from the citizen fans of Red Sox Nation. For better or worse, through the prism of a green diamond on Yawkey Way, beneath the Green Monster, all matters near and dear to the hearts and minds of New Englanders are decided.