An Unhappy Night at Fenway

What an odd feeling — to be at the ballpark when you’re angry at your team.

The Boston Red Sox have been a frustrating blend of arrogance, pushy salesmanship, and mediocrity since September of last year. They have driven me to a state of disappointed apathy. My interest in the season was pretty much gone by mid-May. It’s not the losing that got to me. It’s just a very unlikeable group. I have spent the past three months shaking my head at the litany of sorry antics.

Notable shenanigans include:

players texting ownership about firing the manager

a return to clubhouse drinking and double-fisting

a manager who answers questions like a vaudevillian and claims to have invented the wrap sandwich

two “aces” with a record this season of 13–21

a $20-million-a-year player missing almost two full seasons with injuries

another $20-million-a-year player openly wondering why the fans are unhappy with the Sox’s performance

The front office has been too busy trying to milk every last promotion and are truly shameless marketers. It seems not to have occurred to anyone on Yawkey Way to turn down the hucksterism when the team dropped below .500. Less than one day after trading Kevin Youkilis, the Red Sox sent out an e-mail inviting fans to buy tickets to see him when he returned with his new team, the White Sox. At one point this season, the Red Sox partnered with L. L. Bean and attempted to sell me a tote bag made from last season’s discarded field tarp. Perhaps the team thought it was assuaging an angry fan base when they reduced the price of Fenway commemorative bricks to $75 from $100. To be sure, the crass marketing is the norm for this franchise. It’s just so much easier to overlook when the team is winning.

#more#My bemusement turned to anger last week when only four members of the squad managed to attend the funeral of Sox legend Johnny Pesky, on an off-day no less. Pesky joined the Red Sox in 1942, before heading off to the service to fight in the Second World War. He was affiliated with the Sox for over 60 years, actively participating in team events until his death. He even managed the team at one point. His life as a member of the Sox was documented by David Halberstam in The Teammates, and his own biography was titled Mr. Red Sox. The right-field foul pole in Fenway is named the Pesky Pole. And yet a Gatsby-like four players attended his funeral. Somehow, they all made it to a bowling party that night.

Three days later, the Red Sox blew it all up, somehow convincing the Dodgers to acquire almost $250 million in contracts for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, backup infielder Nick Punto, and Carl Crawford, who likely can’t play until next season because of impending Tommy John surgery. Saturday morning almost half of the projected Saturday-night starting nine boarded a private jet to California. They tweeted a picture of themselves on the jet, and they looked pretty damned happy, too. Beckett needed to go, but I hope (and doubt) that there’s a plan in the front office to replace Gonzalez. A Gold Glove player who perpetually bats .325 seems to me to be the type of centerpiece to build a team around.

Needless to say, between the disappointed bemusement and the recent anger, I hadn’t made it to Fenway this season . . . until Saturday night, mere hours after the colossal trade.

Why? My six-year old Princess has been clamoring to go to “a real baseball game.” My love for her overwhelmed my disdain for the 2012 Red Sox. Saturday night, we shlepped to Fenway.

What an odd, unhappy trip for me. I suppose being mad at your team is a lot like being mad at your wife. Every little thing you would normally let slide now rankles. I’ve been to Fenway a fair amount over the past few years. This time, every little thing bothered me: the 1912-sized seats, the crappy food, the bumbling manager, the lousy pitchers. The manager pulled the spot starter after six innings, though he still looked strong, with a 9–3 lead. The bullpen then crapped out, going through three pitchers to get three outs. After six and a half innings, it was 9–9. The Sox lost.

Meanwhile, Adrian Gonzalez hit a home run in his first at-bat for LA. I suspect that Beckett will thrive in his new setting. I believe in my heart that the Dodgers will win the World Series and that it will drive me crazy.

But my daughter, she loved it. She loved the big green park and all of the cheering fans. She loved the pizza and popcorn. She loved singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch and “Sweet Caroline” as the sides changed in the eighth. She loved doing the Wave and watching the mascot, Wally, dance. She loved seeing her first home run and a blimp high over the park. She loved the concession guy throwing peanuts and collecting later. She had a great experience.

As a fan, I was miserable. But, as I may have mentioned, my love for my daughter is stronger than my disdain for the 2012 Red Sox. As a father, I had a pretty good night.

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