I don't have a chance to make it to Fenway as much as I'd like to. Over the last few years, I've become more of a minor-league game attendee than one who makes the trip down to Boston for a major-league game. As someone who doesn't live in the city, it's just not feasible to go down that way as often as I'd like. If I'm lucky, I'll go to one game a year.
As I've started going to minor-league games, there are things that I definitely do enjoy. The smaller stadium makes it a more intimate setting. Generally speaking the fans are more subdued, and I consider myself a pretty mellow guy. Plus, there's the beer selection, and since I'm living in Portland now you can't really beat the Seadogs craft brew stands. It's also fun seeing the kids have such a good time playing the between-inning games. (Side note: I once beat our old friend Marc Normandin in a between-timeouts game at the Red Claws. Don't ever let him forget that.)
The one portion of the game-attending experience the minor leagues can't emulate, though, is the atmosphere. For all of the hassle it can be for me to get into the city, it's all worth it when you walk into that massive stadium and it's just filled with Bostonians. As I've moved farther from the city and into a different state, I miss those accents and the certain F-U attitude that comes with Boston. It's something that I took for granted while I lived in the area and even actively disliked at times.
There's also the part of the games that everybody loves to complain about, but for someone like me is part of the quintessential Fenway experience. I speak, of course, of Sweet Caroline and The Wave.
Now, I realize that it's not really cool to be into those things. We're supposed to be diehards who are focused on the game. When the team is winning and Sweet Caroline comes on, sure, everybody gets into it. When the Red Sox are losing, though, there exists a large portion of the fanbase that is wholeheartedly against the song.
I do understand where they're coming from, don't get me wrong. At a point when the Red Sox are losing, those who are into the game and are at the stadium on a regular basis aren't really in the mood for singing. And that's fine. You don't have to sing. When you start complaining about other people taking part in the eighth-inning tradition, you come off as something of a curmudgeon. Consider that for people like me, it is a rare opportunity to be a part of this contagious, wondrous atmosphere. Consider that for some people, the night out at the ball game isn't just an opportunity to watch a ball game, but to take in the entire experience at Fenway. Every night, the stadium is filled with people who are casual fans at best and just want to soak in one of the quintessential Boston experiences. For them, signing along to Sweet Caroline -- regardless of the score -- is part of that.
The same goes for the wave, which is more spontaneous than Sweet Caroline but can be just as energizing for that same group of fans. I'll admit that I generally do not take part in the wave when it rolls by my sections. I'm far too lazy to be standing and sitting that often. I would never begrudge anyone for taking part, though. Baseball games are supposed to be a fun source of entertainment. We are in a small percentage of the population that lives and dies by the outcome of each individual game. I would venture to say that while most people at Fenway on any given day would like for the Red Sox to win, they aren't going to let a loss spoil their night. They see the excitement on people's faces as they throw their hands up and then watch the rest of the crowd follow suit. Who am I to tell them to sit down and watch the damn game?
Take it from someone who doesn't get to enjoy this atmosphere very often. Fenway isn't just a place to go watch a game. It's a place where you can be surrounded by people who may have different levels of interest in the action on the field but who have the same level of excitement to simply be there. It's a special feeling, and that's particularly true for the parts of the night that may seem out of place depending on the score. I've grown to love the comfy setting of sitting behind home plate at a minor-league game, but that doesn't come close to replacing the atmosphere that comes with a game at Fenway Park. And whether the Red Sox are winning or losing, a big part of that atmosphere is acting like a kid and doing the wave and belting out Sweet Caroline. It's something you can't get any other way besides getting out to the park.
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