[editor's note, by Randy Booth] Clash of Countries is a new weekly article written by two active members of the OTM community, britsoxfan and SweSox. Each week, both members will tackle a specific Red Sox topic from their standpoint. I hope everyone enjoys.
|by Anders Olsson (SweSox)
I started following the Sox during the 2004 season. It was by no means a "love at first sight" type of thing. I caught a game on Swedish television (the one game a week that was, and still is, the only game available - ESPN's Sunday game) on a day when I was miserably hung over and had nothing to do.
I can't remember who the Sox played or who was pitching for the simple reason that I really wasn't paying that close attention to the game. When the game was over, I turned the TV off and didn't think much more about it.
About two months later, I read a short article in a paper about the completely improbable overthrowing of the Yankees in the ALCS. Since fall in Sweden offers nothing but rain and nothing to do, and the World Series was showed on Swedish TV in its entirety, I decided that I was going to follow it.
When I follow a sporting event I always need to root for one of the teams, and I picked the Red Sox over the Cardinals for no reason I can remember other than that I had watched a game with them earlier in the season.
After the first three games it seemed clear that the Sox were going to win. When the fourth game finished with the Renteria groundout back to the mound and Foulke underhanded it to Mientkiewicz at first, I was happy for about three minutes before I went to bed.
I was unaware of the pandemonium that was erupting across the Atlantic. I had no idea about the 86 years of misery. I didn't know who Bucky Dent was, how a ball had once bounced through the legs of a tired Bill Buckner, or that the ALCS victory over the Yankees was an exorcism of a demon called the Bambino.
I had, however, enjoyed watching the games. I was attracted to how baseball can be two hours of complete calm before a major eruption occurs. Already following the NBA (Pistons and Celtics... I did not, when I became a fan of the teams, know that it was impossible to like both for reasons of battles past) and the NFL (Patriots) I thought I might try to follow the whole season next year.
When April came, I found mlb.tv and immediately signed up. After a week or so, I began to get hooked. I found a whole new dimension to the game, sabermetrics, that I found incredibly enjoyable. But more than that, I started to read up on the Red Sox. I found out about the painful past by reading articles and blogs and by ordering a couple of DVD's that chronicled the past season.
When I watched "Faith Rewarded" I, fully seriously, cried at the end. That was when I knew that I had not just stumbled across a new interest, but a new passion.
In September, I knew all about Papi's clutch abilities, what Manny being Manny meant, and how incredibly promising Paps was (and still is). When the playoffs came around I felt great about it. Two games later, down 0-2, I was somewhat less convinced that the Sox would go back-to-back.
Still, I remembered all the "Keep the Faith" signs from the DVD's I'd watched and thought that they might be able to swing it around. Since I missed experiencing the 2004 championship as a fan, I wanted to witness a great turnaround for myself. No such luck, though, and when the White Sox took the series, I was crushed.
A couple of days later, when it had all settled, I found myself thinking "Next year!" That was the first time I not only was, but actually felt like, a Red Sox fan."
|by Hugh Perry (britsoxfan)
Before the 2004 season (and hold your horses before you label me a glory-hunter), I'd followed the Red Sox in a vague, secondhand way. Sort of like listening to music being played by your neighbours, or reading someone's newspaper over their shoulder.
I'd check the box scores every couple of weeks. News of the 2003 play-offs pretty much passed me by, causing only a mild sense of disappointment.
But then in May 2004 I visited Boston and managed to get tickets for a game against the Kansas City Royals.
My Canadian father-in-law wandered around the park in a stunned, contemplative mood. "Ted Williams. The Splendid Splinter. Oh boy. The Green Monster. Oh boy."
Which reflected what I was saying and feeling. Think about it: that's what the place means to a Canadian and a Brit! I can scarcely imagine what it means to a New Englander, to a Bostonian.
Fenway Park is America. To this outsider at least, it's the very best of the U S of A. If you need telling, it's an extraordinary place, infused with history and magic, from foul pole to foul pole, from the Green Monster to the Red Seat. The smell of the place! The fan fervor! The $6 eggcup of dishwater they call beer!
Factor in the Red Sox's checkered history, which, as anyone will tell you, incorporates triumph, vainglorious defeat, trading disasters, a curse, a tremendous rivalry... Throw in the cast and crew (Manny, Papi, even the front office)... and you have an irresistible, heady combination. The Red Sox are in equal measure glorious and ludicrous, rewarding and infuriating.
Gambling addicts will tell you that they won the first bet they ever laid - and were hooked from then on. It was like that for me in May 2004. I was prepared to love the Sox from the moment I walked through the gates at Fenway Park.
And I was smitten by the time, more than three hours later, Jason Varitek hit a walk-off, pinch-hit double. To this day there's something very special to look at the box score and think, "I was one of the 35,280."
Believe me when I say I'm not following the herd by being a Red Sox fan.
Over here, Yankees caps outnumber all others put together by a factor of about 10 to one. You might see a Red Sox cap in central London if you look really hard and you're really lucky. But it'll probably be worn by a tourist from Concord or Milford.
And these days, baseball in Britain is generally on a par with... tiddlywinks.
Nonetheless, it feels good to be an international member of Red Sox Nation (the concept, rather than the lousy marketing vehicle - boo! hiss!). It's cheaper than Scientology, just about. And unlike Kabala you don't have sport a bit of red twine at your wrist.
There's an amazing community of fans out there and the internet has made it much, much easier to be part of that community. To share thoughts and opinions. To watch games. To hurl abuse at Tanyon Sturtze.
I'm going to love the Red Sox for a very long time, regardless of success on the field. I don't even mind that much if we fail to win another World Series for...oh, two or three more seasons.