Since I'm afraid I really must insist on sleeping at least occasionally, I elected to skip tonight's game in order to edit and post photos from Tuesday night's debacle, which I witnessed in person.
I clearly chose...unwisely.
But while it would've been nice to see them dishing out the beating rather than taking it, It's not like it really makes much difference, at this juncture, whether the Sox win or lose.
I wouldn't say I've "given up" on the Red Sox -- I've been taking advantage of the wider availability of tickets to show up at Fenway when I can, blowouts or no blowouts, so I don't think that would be quite fair. "Let go" would be more accurate. I've put the division and pennant out of my mind. At this point, given the odds, I'll be waiting a few more days before I even think about letting this topsy-turvy series with Tampa get my hopes up.
I'm struggling to explain my coping mechanisms as a fan at the moment without sounding corny, or, if I try to keep things light, as if I just don't care. It's not like I don't want the Red Sox to win, or that I don't wish they were doing better, still in the hunt, and we were starting to get agita along with Yankees and Rays fans as the race comes down to the wire. But I've also seen, over the last few days, the ways the team's collapse has changed the atmosphere around Fenway, and while it's not what I'd prefer, it's also not a completely bad thing.
Earlier this season, a columnist wrote about how Fenway is 'no longer a place to be seen'. This was written as a lament, but some have spoken since about a 'lightening of the bandwagon' as a much-needed purge. The bandwagon fan is almost invariably envisioned as a young female in a pink hat, but the first to go, I've found with the Patriots and now the Red Sox, are the wine-and-cheese crowd, who aren't really defined by age, gender or fashion choices.
Still, you know who I'm talking about. The people we often saw on TV yakking on cell phones in box seats behind the plate during crucial games. The people who set the market price for Sox-Yankees series in the quadruple digits during the last decade. The crowd that would've been sitting in the field box seats we wound up in Tuesday night; instead, we were surrounded by others who seemed more grandstand than luxury box.
As a 'dynasty' period declines for a sports franchise, the first people to go aren't the gum-twhirling neophytes but the status fans, the people who simply want the hottest ticket in town, whatever it is, and will pay top dollar for it.
This is probably one of the reasons Larry Lucchino looked a bit green about the gills when he took to NESN's dais on Yawkey Way before the game tonight, essentially to implore fans to stick around for a new and improved product next year. And he is right to look sick -- he, and the rest of the ownership, have real problems on their hands, problems that can be measured in real dollars.
In a way, it's good that the park has been emptier of late -- at the prices this team is charging for tickets, it's understandable and probably even necessary that the consequences for a losing product are swift and severe. Provided, of course, this situation is temporary.
But as a fan, I don't have to worry about any of that just yet. And as I saw when a similar lull in the action happened about four years ago with the Patriots, suddenly, the ballpark has taken on a different aura.
In the case of the Patriots, the crowd that players had called out for its complacent silence in key moments as the 'dynasty' grew was cheering again on third downs.
Last night at Fenway, there was something sweetly nostalgic about the mood there for me, as I sat in these prime seats surrounded by my Dad and several of my friends. I can distantly remember Fenway being more like this when I came as a kid -- a more casual place. And in some ways a more comfortable one.
As the game wore on, the audience in the stands distilled itself still further, until there were at most just a few thousand left in the ring of seats closest to the infield. But as it dwindled in numbers, the crowd seemed to concentrate and intensify rather than fade away -- what fans were left packed in as close to the field as they could. And they made the noise of twice their number when Darnell McDonald hit an ultimately meaningless home run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
We've seen this before with the Red Sox, too, the time the park fell eerily silent during an ALCS game against the Rays in 2008, drawing the presumptive inferences of national broadcasters about the fan base in general, only to come roaring back to life the next night, ushering in one of the biggest single-game comebacks in playoff history. 'Status' fans fled, and in their wake an unmistakably more raucous, more earnest crowd poured in.
That part of following a less-than-dominant team is really not so bad.