Monday, July 24, 2006

see... it went like this (wow, part two)

I was going to update on Saturday - and Sunday - as promised. But I'm not going to lie to you.

The sun exploded.

Luckily, Kris and I made it to Fenway Park days before a gigantic supernova shockwave ripped the flesh from the bones of everybody on the planet.

In the Before Time - before sun vampires wandered the face of Earth Asteroid Delta hungering for the solar ejecta which quickly became the lifeblood of those altered beings who survived - Fenway was the oldest stadium in major league baseball.

Tickets for the third game of their series with the Mets were hard to come by, as the Red Sox have been made popular in recent years by hundreds of new documentaries about them, all narrated by Ben Affleck or Babe Ruth or some other asshole. Kris and I arrived in Boston at around 3 pm, checking into a charming B&B about a mile away from the park, in Brookline. We settled in, we went outside, and we started feeling our way through the streets of Boston, confident only in the vague sense that the ballpark had to be somewhere ahead of us.

We really only needed to follow the growing swarm of people wearing distressed, prefab-floppy Red Sox hats. EVERYONE IN THE FREAKING CITY owns one of these hats; I'm fairly confident they're provided as a city service, along with garbage pick-up and accent training for out-of-state college students looking to fake being cool Bostonians. Of course, there's nothing wrong with a floppy baseball hat; I own one, too. I've never been able to get the authentic New Era caps to form-fit my head. Apparently, neither has the city of Boston, as these floppy hats far outnumber actual authentic Red Sox caps. At best, it makes "Red Sox Nation" painfully casual; at worst, it implies that rooting for Boston is something of a fashion statement these days (it makes you pine for the days when Red Sox fans were tortured messes, rather than the type of people who use their Sawx hats as accessories for their sporty-yet-relaxed polo shirt/khaki shorts/moccasin ensemble).

If that's the case, then the Fashion District has to be Yawkey Way, right outside of Fenway Park. It's a festive thoroughfare full of sausage & pepper stands, t-shirt shops, and bars. Lots of bars. Kris and I decided to partake, charging straight into the explosive core of Red Sox fandom - the Cask 'N Flagon. We wanted the Boston baseball experience, and we also wanted beer.

I wasn't sure how one person decked out in a Mets hat and a David Wright t-shirt and another decked out in a spectacularly-fitting Mets baby tee would be received at the Cask (the Flagon? The 'N?). Turns out, the supposed last, best bastion of obnoxious, drunk asshole Sox fans was filled with dozens of Mets fans (and the Sox fans were neither obnoxious nor assholes). It had to have been about 50/50 in there. I would say it was a good showing by Mets Nation, but really I think the whole "Nation" concept as it relates to a fanbase is pretty lame (sorry Sox fans - you should go back to being Royal Rooters).

We got another beer at Boston Beer Works, where we ran into a nice older Sox fan couple who had nice things to say about the Mets, even though (or because) Boston had taken the first two games of the series in convincing fashion (Spector was convinced it was a ruse, and via text message told me to cockpunch them). Then, finally, we ventured inside, where the concourse looked not unlike Shea Stadium's decrepit innards.

Kris and I bought more beer and some heavenly Fenway Franks (I don't know why, and I probably don't want to know, but they're so good), and took in our first view of the field.


The first thing you notice is that Fenway is very, very green. What ultimately struck me is how the Red Sox have made the most of what they've got. From a distance, the particulars of the ballpark (the fences, the... green) look like they could be brand new. Maybe it's just a fresh coat of paint that gives Fenway its youthful face. Whatever it is, the place is alive.

... It is green.

The seats at Fenway are old, tiny and wooden, and everybody sat shoulder-to-shoulder. The mass of humanity turned the air into a thick, humid soup. Thanks to the roof over the grandstand, it hung on us throughout the entire game. As exhausting as that was, the energy of the crowd was electric. The only other time and place I could possibly compare it to would be Penn-Princeton at the Palestra.

In fact, there are a few similarities between Fenway Park and the Palestra. After the game, I noticed two young Sox fans walking through the aisles putting seats into their upright positions. And it dawned on me - these people love and respect this place. It's the same way I feel about the Palestra. It's hallowed ground.

And once the Mets took a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth, Fenway Park, like the Palestra has done many times, seemed to swallow up the visitors and will the home team towards victory. The Red Sox scored four unanswered runs, and the final Mets threat was extinguished by one of the greatest catches anybody will ever see (brought to you in Japanese for some reason).

So the Mets, in the middle of their roughest stretch of the season (so far; they're getting slapped around by the lowly Cubs AGAIN tonight), went down to defeat. But Kris and I were happy with our Fenway experience, and we vowed to return.

Little did we know what the sun had in mind for us, and the rest of our dear, departed planet. Specifically, the sun had "exploding" in mind for us.

Tomorrow: Part 3, a.k.a., big news!

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