In more ways than one.
I remember about a month ago a terrible plague swept through my office, which is just outside Boston. We have an open office plan, and it struck down people in desk-by-desk order, felling everyone for at least a week. I can't help but think it's the same terrible bug that's sweeping through the Red Sox clubhouse right now, and I wouldn't even be surprised if it was happening in order of lockers.
And I'm now convinced that some kind of super-flu has taken up residence in this area specifically. People I know who live all or most of the time in other parts of the country say they haven't seen such widespread illness in their area; a good example of this is Sam, who lives most of the year in Michigan, but was horrified by the pestilence when she came home for spring break. Another example is my sister, who goes to school in Ohio and only came down with flu after a visit home to Massachusetts.
And now it seems baseball players taking up residence in Boston after an off-season away are also being clotheslined by this New England-specific plague.
The latest victim of this strange phenomenon is the Diceman, who scratched from his start last night just as Josh had the night before. I only found this out once my husband and I had bitten in to pre-game snacks at Rem-Dawgs. Instead, we got Jon Lester, rendering my cheery red Matsuzaka jersey worn specifically for the occasion irrelevant, and making me a pouty girl indeed through the first inning or so. It also didn't help that Lester had hits just laced off him all night by the Angels lineup, and especially by Gary Matthews Jr., who hit two homers on the night.
I did have a grumble or two toward the end of the game about how the Sox had just won six straight, then I show up and they lose (Jonathan Papelbon has also timed his appearances so far this season to fall on the night just before I show up). But really, it was a very enjoyable experience, as losses go, and much of it didn't have anything to do with the score of the game.
Our seats were in a section I've never sat in before - Section 31, Loge Box 162, just a little ways away from where Pizza-Gate happened. In other words, foul-ball alley. We saw two different screaming liners plop into our section; one was caught by a guy in the row in front of us and another bounced off a woman in the row behind us and was caught by someone two seats away from me. (Drama ensued; the woman felt she was entitled to the ball that had left a big red welt on her arm; the guy who ended up with it felt she was entitled to kiss his ass.)
Between the foul-ball incoming and the many colorful denizens of the section, it was hard to pay strict attention to what was going on in the infield. Instead, this game was kind of a weird, fuzzy social event, a big crowded picnic outside on an idyllic summer evening, even though it's still only mid-April.
The man behind me seemed intent on extracting demonstrations of enjoyment from the rest of his family for the tickets he'd bought. "These are great seats," he kept repeating. "And what a night--it's like late June!"
He got only murmurs of assent, but I had to agree with him. The temperature had been forecast in the low 80's, but by the time I was headed into town for the game, my car's thermometer showed 89. By about the third inning, night had begun to fall, and the sky over Fenway was that bewitching indigo blue of early evening. The night air was cooling somewhat, but had that tired, mellow feeling the night breezes have when it's been hot.
In front of us there were two kids rocking--I mean ROCKING--Celtics gear. They also rocked many beers, and by the 7th inning had taken to loudly announcing the Celtics score, decrying the fact that the Celtics still needed to 'cuvva' the point spread (if I had a nickel for the number of times I've heard this line in Boston stadiums...in our great and mighty Commonwealth where lingering Puritan mores make sports betting illegal), and talking absolute smack to Gary Matthews Jr. every time he reported to the outfield.
He never acknowledged them (why would he?) but it was not for their lack of effort. They repeatedly stood up in green-festooned relief from the section and hollered intelligent criticisms his way loud enough to be heard by Vladi Guerrerro over in right field. Props to Matthews for just letting them look like maroons.
The rest of the section enjoyed much more pleasant interaction with Manny Ramirez. It's true what they say about that left-field corner and its special relationship with him.
And while I knew Manny is a space cadet, I was still surprised when I saw him up close like that last night - it's also entirely true what they say about his daydreaming in the field. He is, at times, just one step away from turning cartwheels and picking dandilions out there. His shoes were chronically untied. His hat never seemed to stay on his head for very long. And most of all, he seems to hate to wear his glove - at times he'd take it completely off and swing it around in his right hand between pitches.
"MANNY, PAY ATTENTION!" screamed the Celtics meatheads.
As I said, the game was a loss, and a vague kind of loss at that. Not the best game I've ever been to, but worth the price of admission was that experience with Manny in the outfield. He also obliged the crowd with a trip into the Monster late in the game, which prompted the entire section to stand up with cameras raised for when he came back out again.
Probably my favorite moment of the whole game was in the third inning, when Manny combined with Julio Lugo to relay a ball from deep left center and throw out the lead runner at second (Matthews again - he was everywhere this game). As Manny settled back into position after the play, practically our whole section started giving him his own patented double-gun salute, exaggeratedly, raising our arms over our heads and bringing them back down again, the better to make sure he saw us.
Like Matthews, and most other professional ballplayers, Manny's developed at least somewhat of an ability to ignore fans shouting at him--or at least to avoid stirring them up into a frenzy by waving or giving the double-guns back. But even from about 100 feet away, I could see him smile, nod just slightly, very quickly touch the bill of his cap.