What baseball-loving kid (or baseball-loving kid-at-heart) doesn’t dream of attending a real live ballgame, catching an errant foul ball, or at least catching the eye of your favorite player with a home-made sign? (Before you comment that this kid has his sign pointing the wrong way, note that it’s double-sided, with “We love you, Big Papi” on one side and a word to Manny Ramirez on the other.)
Boston Red Sox fans are a particularly loyal group…so it should come at no surprise that there were throngs of Sox fans at all three inter-league games at Atlanta’s Turner Field this week. How do I know, you might ask, how many Boston fans traveled all the way to Atlanta to watch their favorite team on the road? I know because I was one of the migrating throng that, motivated by the near impossibility of getting reasonable tickets at Fenway Park, flew to Atlanta, availed myself of the Southern hospitality of friends, and tried my very best not to be an Obnoxious Northerner who offends the locals.
It’s difficult, of course, not to offend the locals when your team ends up winning two out of three games…but on Monday night, before being placed on the Sox disabled list, Curt Schilling served up a loss, so there was a moment of joy in Atlanta before the Sox dominated on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
To give credit where credit is due, Schilling (himself a blogger) didn’t humiliate himself at the plate, managing to get to first base during one of his Monday night at-bats. One of the delights of inter-league play–something loyal Sox fans who stay at home don’t get to see in person–is the sheer novelty of an American League pitcher batting according to National League rules.
Another part of the fun of a major-league ballgame is observing the crowd in attendance: the peanut-eating, beer-chugging folks sitting around you, after all, are one thing you don’t have when you watch a game on TV from home. On all three nights of our Atlanta Invasion, the resident Atlanta fans seemed completely flummoxed by the rabid Sox fans in attendance. “I was buying a beer and heard this huge cheer,” one Atlanta fan noted dejectedly during Wednesday night’s 11-0 thrashing, “so I assumed we had scored. But it turned out it was the visiting fans who were making so much noise.” On Tuesday night, under the liquid encouragement of seemingly omnipresent beer vendors, some Atlanta fans got fed up with the visiting contingent of Red Sox Nation. In response to the visitors’ loud and insistent cheers of “Let’s go, Red Sox,” several Braves fans countered with “Go home, Red Sox!”
Of course, regardless of your team loyalty, when you attend a major league ballgame, you quickly realize the best seats in the house aren’t seats at all, but the railing of either team’s dugout, where the game’s most attentive spectators turn out to be the players themselves.
At one level, baseball fandom is little more than glorified people-watching. Sure, we traveled to Atlanta to watch some actual ballgames, but we also traveled to Atlanta to see the players themselves in the flesh. Where else but six rows back from third base can you contemplate Manny Ramirez’ hair…
Kevin Youkilis’ twisted kick…
or David Ortiz rounding the bases after knocking a homer out of the ballpark?
On TV, you’d probably watch commercials while Big Papi and Youk (another blogger) swapped first-baseman’s stories…
…and if you watched Tuesday night’s ballgame on TV, you definitely didn’t get the chance to be mesmerized by the ant-like activity of the Turner Field grounds-crew raking and laying dry dirt on the field after a rain delay.
For a loyal Red Sox fan, though, the most dreamy picture of all is this one of the Atlanta Braves’ drummer sitting dejectedly on his tom-tom. Who’s in the mood to beat a drum, do a politically incorrect tomahawk chop, or utter a war-whoop when your team is losing 11-0?