Throughout this series, we’ve told you some of the great parts of going to Fenway Park. Among them: You could see a historic game or player. You can see Fenway-specific landmarks like the Green Monster and Citgo sign. You can break your daily routine in style. But none of those are the most important.
The most important part of Fenway Park is you.
Sorry not sorry if that sounds hokey, but it’s true. For all its greatness, Fenway Park is really nothing more than a host for Red Sox fans. In a very real way, going to Fenway is great because it means you’ve gone to Fenway. Like an unlit candle, you only get the full effect when you add a spark… and you’re the spark.
In some ways this is true of every stadium, but just as not all candles are the same, all baseball parks are not equal. Just as you don’t go lighting candles willy-nilly, I wouldn’t say you had to visit, say, Tropicana Field to give it that special Rays Fan Spark, and not simply because you’re almost certainly a Red Sox fan. Tropicana Field is no baseball cathedral. Fenway is where is pays to let there be light.
The best part is how easy it is to spark it up, so to speak, to sit anywhere, for any game you want. By way of example, here are two stories about the "old" days, some of which were quite recently, and the lengths to which I went to get in the game.
In the year of our lord 2004, in order to get a reasonably priced ticket, I left a friend’s apartment on Peterborough Street, right around the corner, at about 5 a.m. with a pillow to sleep outside the Standing Room Only tickets gate. A breezy six hours later or so, I had earned myself the ability to stand my butt in place for a Curt Schilling start after all that sitting.
It was fun, but exhausting. It’s also no longer necessary. What had made it extra important was that the previous day, we bought tickets from a scalper on the bridge over the Mass Pike. We got bleacher tickets at a 10 times markup, which was too much money to spend on consecutive days. It was literally better to sleep in the street than to deal with getting into the park. Fun in its way, sure, but not ideal.
It wasn’t even my bleariest ticket-buying experience, though. That was in college and in Chicago, when I waited in a long, outdoor line with thousands of others, overnight, to buy Cubs tickets for the following season. Twelve hours, and my haul was six bleacher tickets for a single game against the Cardinals in May. It was the worth the wait -- this was 1998, so that ended up in the solid middle of the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home run chase -- but it seems hilariously antiquated now. If it was fun just to have the story, and I haven’t really gotten to tell the story until now, how fun was it really?
The answer is that, outside of being fun to stand outside Wrigley Field all night for the heck of it, it was not fun. It rained and was extremely cold and I remember thinking the Cubs ticket people were nice for giving fans watered-down hot chocolate, two cents of brown lukewarm sugar-water for a chance to take your money in your bleariest hour to watch what we expected to be a so-so team. They ended up being pretty good, at least.
Still, nowadays both of these stories sound like someone who, in need of fire before the invention of lighters or matches, rubbed sticks together to get a flame every time he needed one. It was exhausting. It made just going to the game, after all that, exhausting as well, even months later. It was just too much.
Now it’s nothing at all. Now, you can unleash your true inner fan with no more than a few clicks of a mouse. You can bring Fenway to light and to life by barely lifting a finger. Forget the walking-uphill-both-ways-days-were-better type; this is better. This is how it ought to be. You can spend your energy on the game now. The Red Sox need that energy and, in a way, so do you. As a fan, you get whatever you put into your fandom. And what’s better to put into it than yourself?