Scenes from Fenway Park: A view from the grandstands; the American flag covers the Green Monster; fans swarm commentators, including former Sox slugger David Ortiz, and the media before the start of the game.
Let’s get one thing straight: I love the Boston Red Sox.
I’m a diehard fan by osmosis. The Curmudgeon has loved the Red Sox since Ted Williams’ final year in 1960. His father and mother were rabid Red Sox fans. When the Sox won the World Series in 2004 for the first time since 1918, I was sure his recently deceased mom had something to do with it.
The Curmudgeon’s law firm has season tickets to Fenway Park in Boston. When someone wants to go to a game, I grill him about their commitment and whether they’re deserving of entering the hallowed ballpark.
“Are they real fans?” I ask. “Do they watch every single game starting with opening day to the playoffs or do they just want to say they’re going to the World Series? Because only true fans should be in Fenway right now.”
I don’t know why I care about fans’ commitment level, but I do. Real fans watch the game every time the Red Sox play from April to October. Real fans are glued to the TV for every pitch and can call balls and strikes without the little strike zone superimposed on the screen. Real fans love the team, but still scream when they play like crap. Real fans are a little sad that Joe Kelly lopped off his beautiful curls.
I am a real Red Sox fan, but guess what? I took an hour break from Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers to watch This is Us. And after it was over, I entertained myself watching outtakes of The Goldbergs.
This would be OK except I was busted. My friend and my son texted me during the game to get my reaction to certain plays. When I admitted that I wasn’t watching, my sanity and loyalty were immediately questioned.
“What do you mean you’re not watching?” my son asked after the three-run homer in the 7th. “I’ve been doing stuff all night at school and streaming the game on my phone. What’s wrong with you?”
“Are you watching this?” my friend John texted during the 5th inning. “Sox just went ahead 5-3. Very tense game. Both starters are out. Up to the bullpens.”
“Took a slight break. I haven’t been able to watch anything else all fall,” I texted.
“I can’t not watch. Are you kidding me?” John wrote back.
“I’m engaged in the game (not true), but needed a slight break after watching the New York Giants lose last night,” I wrote.
“Forget the Giants. It’s Red Sox time!” John texted.
Being a Giants’ fan teaches you not to pin all your hopes on your team’s win-loss record. It puts things in perspective: the fact that you can have some of the game’s best players and still be unable to make anything happen. Being a Giants’ fan teaches you humility, underscoring the fact that sometimes you win, but often you lose. And when you do, it’s not the end of the world.
Winning isn’t everything to me. If it was, I would be a New England Patriots’ fan. It’s easy to love a team that wins most of the time. But I like Eli Manning and what he represents. I’ve never seen him lose his cool, and he’s a wonderful role model for kids. He’s a class act, and I don’t throw around that term too often.
I realize that baseball and football are two different animals, but the intensity of being a sports fan is sometimes too much for me. Sometimes, I just want to be like a normal person and watch a show. Sometimes, I need a night off from keeping score.
I had no intention of cheating on the Sox at the start of the evening. I poured myself a glass of red wine and settled in front of the TV for the first inning. The Sox scored two easy runs in the first, making me feel a little emboldened. Maybe I would just turn on This Is Us and pop into the game on commercial breaks. Don’t guys channel surf all the time?
But I became engrossed in the show, and never checked in on the game. I think – no, I know – I needed a break. The team has dominated my evenings for most of the past six months. I guess I’m a little burned out. Whose idea was it to make the season so long?
The Curmudgeon promised me that he didn’t care who won the World Series, that he just didn’t want the New York Yankees to beat the Red Sox. But he was a maniac during the playoffs against the Houston Astros, every bit as crazy as he was against the Yankees. He’s nuts when he watches his team, which is why I can’t take this any more.
I am a good wife, watching when the Curmudgeon is home and sitting on my special place on the couch that he swears is good luck. But he was at the game, and would provide color commentary and behind the scenes information the next day. We watch what he wants to watch every night. What he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, right?
For one night, I felt like being a rebel and doing my own thing without having to apologize or justify it. I didn’t feel like watching every pitch or hanging on every call. I wanted to be a fan without the obsession. I wanted to be like the fan that I don’t think deserves to be in Fenway right now.
Some people will call my loyalty into question, and I really have no answers. All I can say is you can love your children without going to all of their games, school open houses or plays. You can love a team with all your heart, and still want to see what’s up with Toby and Kate without watching it On Demand.
Sometimes, you must love something enough to step away, and if it’s true love, you will return. Game 2 is on tonight and I’ll be back on the couch. I guess it’s the real thing.