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Sophocles at Fenway
Townhall ^ | 8/28/06 | Paul Greenberg

Posted on 08/28/2006 4:43:36 AM PDT by Molly Pitcher

BOSTON - The function of baseball at its best is that of any high art: to take us out of ourselves, to recall us to life, to disrupt the normal unhappiness. It breaks up what Walker Percy called the malaise of everydayness, and reintroduces us to the sublime.

That's why I'm in this milling crowd inching its way toward storied Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox and field of too-often broken dreams. Sunday in the park with Ramirez and Papelbon and Youkilis is a kind of high holiday.

The crowd itself is a study. There are ball caps aplenty with the stylized, turn of-the-century B in colors from feminine pink to Irish green, baseball shirts with the name and number of the fan's favorite player on the back, and T-shirts bearing slogans expressing various degrees of disdain for the Sox's archrival, the hated/feared Yankees.

Some of the messages can actually be printed in a family newspaper. My favorite is worn by a petite brunette. Its demure, lower-case white letters on a red background inform: real women don't date yankee fans.

It's good to see that Boston still retains a little Beacon Hill restraint.

It occurs that the (damn) Yankees are a necessary evil in this town, for what would the Red Sox be without them? It would be like Athens without Sparta, Holmes without Moriarty, Louis without Schmeling. Every great drama must have conflict at its center.

Like the Greek chorus in a classic text, the crowd is an essential part of the performance. A Red Sox home game combines the communal and sublime, qualities so often at odds with one another that, when combined, the effect is an almost conscious exhilaration.

You realize at such moments what a small, parochial town Boston really is and why people love that about it. One can love New York, I suppose, but not in the way one loves Boston, or any other great city that still seems small.

It must have been like this when tens of thousands of Athenians poured into the amphitheater to see - no, hear - Sophocles' latest, and have their souls laid bare. Call it catharsis. The fans don't need to know the word to have the feeling.

As you shuffle down the streets and alleys toward Yawkey Way, circling the ballpark in search of your gate, you can almost feel the timeless clock of baseball being wound up. Soon there will be no minutes and hours, only outs and innings. As we pass through the turnstile, any outsized bag is inspected and tagged - a last reminder of the warring world outside.

Americans go to baseball games for the same reason Italians attend the opera or Spaniards the bullfight - not because they're looking for novelty but quite the opposite: to see how faithfully the ritual is performed and whether it can be brought to a new level. Ritual has got a bad press, as in mere ritual. Better understood, the purpose of ritual is not to re-create the past but to enter a kind of ever-present in which the only thing that counts is the sacrament, the performance, the Game.

Oh, yes, the game. Inning follows inning, with the Red Sox building a comfortable lead (11 to 7) until the top of the ninth. That's when the missing element of the game reappears: suspense. The Orioles put two men on base, and the Red Sox call on No. 58, their ace reliever - Jonathan Papelbon, who's got an earned run average of something like .91 and the wild devotion of Boston fans.

I begin to see why they call him Wild Thing when, with the bases loaded after a Red Sox error, Papelbon walks in a run. It's a refreshing sight:

Thirty-five thousand Americans on their feet totally absorbed in something other than themselves.

The cozy stadium resounds with one name as the chant goes on and on:

Pa-pel-bon! Pa-pel-bon! Pa-pel-bon! The score goes to 11-9 with the bases still loaded and the Orioles' go-ahead run on first. And this is the way the game ends, this is the way the game ends, not with a bang but an infield grounder. Papelbon is saved, or saves the game, or both. It scarcely matters.

A good time is had by all except the Orioles and the lackluster pitchers on both teams. It isn't great baseball but it's still riveting. Or as Ravel was supposed to have said after hearing the first performance of his "Bolero," it's not music but it's magnificent.

The crowd files out, satisfied enough with the win. The Yankees wouldn't be in town till the next week for a five-game series that would prove disastrous (the Boston Massacre). Today hope was still in the air. So was premonition. One could almost feel the Greek tragedy that is the pre-2004 history of the Red Sox stirring again.

Without Jason Varitek behind the plate - he's recovering from knee surgery - the Sox pitchers look lost out there on that lonely mound. Center field seems empty with Johnny Damon gone, having committed the Boston equivalent of high treason by joining the Yankees. With no warning, the same fans who were just cheering wildly can turn into a swarm of furies.

As the afternoon waned, slowly the shadows began to creep across the third base line and out into the field, like the other, lesser world out there returning. For some reason I think of Joe DiMaggio's unmatchable 56-game hitting streak in 1941, the last pre-war season. In Game 35 he went 2-for-5 against the Detroit Tigers in Yankee Stadium. The date was June 22, 1941, the day Hitler, sparing his old ally Stalin any formal notice, sent his panzer divisions hurtling into Russia.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; US: Massachusetts
KEYWORDS: baseball; bostonredsox; fenwaypark; redsox; yankees

1 posted on 08/28/2006 4:43:36 AM PDT by Molly Pitcher
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To: Molly Pitcher
L O S E R S
2 posted on 08/28/2006 4:54:27 AM PDT by johnny7 (“And what's Fonzie like? Come on Yolanda... what's Fonzie like?!”)
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To: johnny7

I just thank God every day they didn't get A-rod. They'd be even worse off than they are now.


3 posted on 08/28/2006 5:38:22 AM PDT by kellynch (Expecto Patronum!)
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To: kellynch

LOL... did you ever see that Photoshoped pic of him carrying a purse to first base?


4 posted on 08/28/2006 5:46:42 AM PDT by johnny7 (“And what's Fonzie like? Come on Yolanda... what's Fonzie like?!”)
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To: Molly Pitcher
I like the Athens - Sparta analogy. Remember who won the Pelleponesean War, acted as inspiration for the Romans, and thus, the Founding Fathers. It wasn't Athens.
5 posted on 08/28/2006 6:30:19 AM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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To: Molly Pitcher
As a life long Redsox fen I have nothing to say at this time.
6 posted on 08/28/2006 6:30:34 AM PDT by #1CTYankee (That's right, I have no proof. So what of it??)
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To: johnny7

Yes I have. And one friend of mine "fixed" that picture further by putting him in a pink uniform. LOL!


7 posted on 08/28/2006 6:31:14 AM PDT by kellynch (Expecto Patronum!)
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To: #1CTYankee

Ditto your post:)

...sigh...


8 posted on 08/28/2006 6:31:59 AM PDT by SE Mom (Proud mom of an Iraq war combat vet-prayers for the kidnapped Israeli Soldiers))
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To: SE Mom
"...sigh..."

Just not our year, the only thing to do now is root against the evil empire.

9 posted on 08/28/2006 6:35:45 AM PDT by #1CTYankee (That's right, I have no proof. So what of it??)
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To: Molly Pitcher

F the Dead Sox. It's Patriots season.


10 posted on 08/28/2006 6:36:14 AM PDT by Hemingway's Ghost (Spirit of '75)
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To: Molly Pitcher

Sorry folks but the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is chump entertainment. The best years of this rivalry are long gone. They belong to an era when players stayed with a ball club. Take Johnny Damnon. Should Sox fans still root for him?

I saw a few games when Sox versus Yankees meant something back when Boston wasn't a mini-me clone of New York City


11 posted on 08/28/2006 6:42:54 AM PDT by dennisw (Confucius say man who go through turnstile sideways going to Bangkok)
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To: #1CTYankee

.. the only thing to do now is root against the evil empire.



It was ever thus :)


12 posted on 08/28/2006 6:47:25 AM PDT by SE Mom (Proud mom of an Iraq war combat vet-prayers for the kidnapped Israeli Soldiers))
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To: kellynch
A guy I worked with did some 'work' on a Knobloch pic back in 2000. The one with him tagging/not tagging... the runner going to second.

In Photoshop... he s t r e c h e d Knobloch's arm like a rubberband... out to about 6ft. Nice job too... blew it up big.

13 posted on 08/28/2006 6:57:06 AM PDT by johnny7 (“And what's Fonzie like? Come on Yolanda... what's Fonzie like?!”)
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To: johnny7
I use Knoblauch whenever your typical obnoxious Yankee fan starts waxing poetic about Derek Jeter and his 4 WS rings. Knoblauch has 4 too, but does that mean he's a better player than someone like Ernie Banks, who never won any?

As a reminder, Derek Jeter has won diddly squat since he was named Captain, and diddly squat since Paul O'Neill retired and Tino Martinez was shown the door in favor of The Sultan of Shot (credit to Steve Somers of WFAN, New York), aka BALCO Boy.

14 posted on 08/28/2006 7:26:10 AM PDT by kellynch (Expecto Patronum!)
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To: kellynch
As a reminder, Derek Jeter has won diddly squat since he was named Captain, and diddly squat since Paul O'Neill retired and Tino Martinez was shown the door in favor of The Sultan of Shot (credit to Steve Somers of WFAN, New York), aka BALCO Boy.

LOL... bottom line junior... “Who's yer' daddy?”

15 posted on 08/28/2006 8:40:45 AM PDT by johnny7 (“And what's Fonzie like? Come on Yolanda... what's Fonzie like?!”)
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To: kellynch
your typical obnoxious Yankee fan

LOL. I've been living in Boston the past two years. Yankee fans have a long way to go to match Sox fans for sheer vulgar aggressiveness. Sox fans remind me of Raiders fans or Eagles fans. Either taunting or whining.

16 posted on 08/28/2006 8:41:41 AM PDT by speedy
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To: speedy

Go easy on 'em. They're two years into realizing thjat their next Championship will come around about the same time as Haley's Comet.


17 posted on 08/28/2006 8:48:14 AM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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To: kellynch

And the difference between a hot dog at the Stadium and Fenway in October? You can get one at the Stadium.

Obnoxious Yankees Fan.


18 posted on 08/28/2006 8:49:56 AM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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To: speedy
I live in New York and am a Mets fan. I am surrounded by Yankee fans who know less about their team than I do yet they act as if their excrement has no odor simply because they root for a team with 26 World Championships. BFD.

I cannot begin tell you how many so-called "lifelong Yankee fans" can't tell me that Buck Showalter managed their team before Joe Torre or that Joe Torre managed the Mets, the Braves and the Cardinals (in that order) before joining the Yankees. Spare me.

19 posted on 08/28/2006 10:55:16 AM PDT by kellynch (Expecto Patronum!)
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To: kellynch

In 1986 [who but the Mets celebrates 20th anniversaries of their LAST Championship?], a METS fan I worked with ran up to me and yelled, "We're a dynasty!" I pointed out we'd [and you know who 'we'is] lost more World Series to the Dodgers than they'd been in. He was unaware of that fact. Met fans are like Frenchmen. They live in the previous century, and whine in the current one.


20 posted on 08/28/2006 12:26:20 PM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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To: PzLdr
Records aside, there is NO comparison between a Redsox fan and a Yankee fan.

The Redsox fan knows far more about the game...hands down

21 posted on 08/28/2006 12:38:42 PM PDT by maineman
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To: maineman

If it makes you happy...


22 posted on 08/28/2006 12:40:07 PM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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