There are rabid Red Sox fans, and then there’s my buddy Deb.
Her license plate is BoSox2, and her new cat is named Caroline after the Sox’s 8th inning anthem “Sweet Caroline.” (Her beloved first cat Fenway died last year.)
She’s clad in Red Sox gear when we meet in a commuter lot outside New Haven, CT., for the 2 1/2-hour trek to Fenway Park. It’s my first trip of the season, but Deb’s already been to three games and it’s only mid-June.
She scored this ticket as part of a girls’ night out orchestrated by yours truly. I got the idea for the outing last winter after my friend Cindy’s mother died. During his eulogy, Cindy’s husband Ted mentioned that his mother-in-law Barbara was a diehard Red Sox fan. I thought it might be fun to take Cindy to a game in honor of “Mother Wolfe,” who died after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
I then invited Deb, whose love of the Sox is legendary. Deb, Cindy and I all got our start in journalism at Citizen Publications, a now-defunct chain of small dailies and weeklies gobbled up by publishing conglomerates in 1995.
Though I never actually worked with Deb during my Citizen days, I met her several years ago at a Citizen reunion organized by Cindy at an Italian restaurant. The Citizen was that kind of place. It got into your soul and grabbed a permanent place, perhaps because we were there for a common goal that had nothing to do with money.
We were all there because we wanted to be journalists. And though it wasn’t exactly the big leagues – as other reporters and readers often reminded us – we didn’t care. We were all doing what we loved, even if it meant qualifying for free blocks of federally-funded cheese and moonlighting at the Burlington Coat Factory to pay the bills.
In its own way, the Citizen was family, or at least as close to it as a workplace can be. Cindy strolled through the old building, which is now a fish distribution center, with a few former colleagues before our last reunion and said it was rundown and depressing. I guess some things are best preserved to memory.
Deb is proof that fandom can be passed down through the generations. Her mother, who’s in her early ’80s, was a diehard Red Sox fan long before it was fashionable for women to follow sports. Living in Maine, the Sox seemed a reasonable target for her mom’s unwavering love and devotion.
As we made our way to our seats next to the Sox dugout, Deb’s excitement became palpable and she quickened her step. She told me she’s been a Red Sox fan since she was 10, when she first visited Fenway with her family.
It was 1967 – the year the Red Sox won the American League pennant, in what was later dubbed The Impossible Dream. Deb didn’t watch the TV the night the Sox won. Her eyes were fixed on her mother. She couldn’t believe how excited she was that the Sox finally won.
The ensuing 50 years have only deepened Deb’s love of the team, and I was curious to attend a game with her. Would she be dancing in the aisles like other super fans and trying to get on the Jumbotron? I doubted it given her laid back personality, but you never know. People do crazy things at sporting events.
Deb’s eyes widened as we approached our seats next to the dugout. Only a low concrete wall and safety netting separated her from her beloved Sox, and she could shout out to players if she was so inclined. But she has too much class and decorum for that. Besides, she didn’t want to do anything to distract the Sox from the game against the Texas Rangers.
As we settled into our seats, a security officer approached us.
“Is this the first time you’ve been in this section?,” he asked. “Because I’m going to have to ask you ladies to control yourselves. There will be no jumping over the wall to try to get at the players tonight.”
Hmmm, very funny. Cindy, who’s president of the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization of Women, wasn’t amused.
“I think that was a little sexist,” she whispered. “I mean, he’d never say that kind of thing to men.”
Deb kept mostly to herself during the game, keeping her chatting to a minimum to focus on the field. She occasionally turned to me to comment on a player’s change of batting music or lousy batting average, but there’s no doubt where her focus is when she’s in the house.
On average, she attends about 10 Sox games a year, mostly at Fenway Park. This year has been particularly disappointing – the Sox have lost all four games she’s attended. But Deb didn’t boo or heckle players like some fans when the Sox lost. Instead, she stood and clapped.
Deb is proof that being a Red Sox fan is about the long haul and big picture. She’s not about to give up on the season or team because of a few losses. In fact, she’s already counting the days to her next scheduled game Aug. 3rd at Yankees Stadium.
It’s wonderful to be passionate about a baseball team, and I envy Deb’s devotion to the Sox. I’ve never felt that way about any team. I’m a sometime fan who drops in when it’s convenient or a ticket drops into my lap, but I don’t have the drive or interest in following a team from opening day to October.
I wish I did, but I don’t. But I think I understand Deb’s love of the Sox a little better after sitting next to her for three hours. Her mom loves the team, and passed that passion onto her daughter. This isn’t so much about baseball or the Sox as it is about a little girl loving her mother, and wanting to grow up to be just like her.
Deb has done her mother proud, which is the most any of us can hope for as parents.