The pitch

Two weekends ago, J and I went to a sunny Sunday ballgame at Fenway Park, where we saw the Boston Red Sox beat the Atlanta Braves, 9 to 4. It was a perfect day to catch a game at Fenway: hot and sunny with low humidity, the sky offering only an occasional spot of shade from a passing puff of cloud.

Amateur papparazzo

The last time we’d caught a game between the Sox and Braves was in 2009, when we traveled to Atlanta to see three sun-soaked games. (You can see photo-sets from those games here, here, and here.) In my two blog posts about those three Hotlanta games, I talked about how interesting it is to watch other spectators watching a ballgame. At any given sports event, there’s action on the field and action in the stands…and at any given sporting event, the action in the stands is often just as interesting as the actual game being played.

Funky balloon

At that sunny Sunday ballgame two weekends ago, J and I sat in the outfield bleachers, with a panoramic view of action. One of the most exciting highlights of the afternoon, however, happened behind us when a guy proposed to his girlfriend, hiding a (boxed) engagement ring in their shared bag of popcorn. “Collective effervescence” is the term sociologist Émile Durkheim used to refer to the charged emotional energy shared by participants in a communal experience, and collective effervescence is as good a term as any to describe the buzz in our section of the bleachers as word spread that yes, that happy, relieved-looking young man in a Red Sox jersey had just proposed to that happy, glowing girl in a Braves jersey…and she said yes.

Kevin Youkilis leaves the game

Collective effervescence is also a good term to describe the moment late in the game when fan-favorite Kevin Youkilis ground out a triple and was replaced by a pinch-runner on third base. Rumor already had it that Youkilis was going to be traded, so fans knew that when Youk was taken out of the game, this would be a final farewell. The walls of Fenway Park all but shook with a thunderous ovation as fans bellowed “YOOOOOOOUUUUUUK” from the bottom of their bellies, making it clear that the decision to ship Youk to the Chicago White Sox was made by the management, not the fans. Youk will return to Fenway in his new uniform when the White Sox play the Red Sox later this month, and I’m confident that fans in attendance will welcome him as warmly as we sent him off two weeks ago.

Fenway in summer

Did I mention that the Red Sox beat the Braves, 9 to 4? The win was almost an afterthought: happy icing on a collectively effervescent cake. On a sunny Sunday, it feels nice simply to sit outside with other folks enjoying a beer, some popcorn, and a leisurely game. At any sporting event, there’s the action on the field and the action in the stands, at at the end of the day, both kinds of action are pretty enjoyable to watch, regardless of who wins. On that hot and sunny Sunday, even if the ballplayers hadn’t shown up, I suspect those of us in the outfield bleachers would have found some reason to cheer.

This is my belated contribution to this past week’s Photo Friday theme, Sports. For more photos from Fenway Park, click here. Enjoy!

Atlanta Braves' superfan

I’ve blogged before about the importance of donning team colors when you go to a sporting event, but this Braves super-fan has everyone beat. This past weekend in Atlanta, J and I saw an almost equal number of Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves fans in attendance at Atlanta’s Turner Field for the teams’ three inter-league games, but none of them were as elaborately dressed as this fellow with his pseudo-deerskin tunic and turkey feather headdress. If you’ve wondered where the Braves’ former mascot Chief Noc-A-Homa went after he was retired due to complaints of racism, I might have found your answer.

Even if you aren’t in the market for a colorful Native American costume, it can be expensive to wear your team affiliation on your sleeve, particularly if you buy an officially licensed team jersey with the name of your favorite player. And if said player subsequently leaves your favorite team, you’re left with a conundrum: what to do with your outdated jersey? When Johnny Damon left the Red Sox and signed with the Hated Yankees, true-blue Red Sox fans found all sorts of ways to “recycle” their old Damon jerseys, including this bit of sartorial revision:

Johnny Damon = Demon

If your favorite player left your favorite team under friendly terms–or if he at least didn’t sign with your arch rivals–you can get away with wearing his old jersey proudly. After the Red Sox recently acquired long-time Braves’ pitcher John Smoltz, J immediately bought one of Smoltz’s old Braves jerseys on eBay, figuring he’d wear it if we got to see the future Hall of Famer pitch for the Red Sox against his former team. As luck would have it, Smoltz didn’t pitch in Atlanta, so J didn’t taunt any Braves’ fans by wearing his John Smoltz shirt with his Red Sox cap. We did, though, see several Boston fans sporting jerseys for the Red Sox’ former short-stop, Nomar Garciaparra, with the lamentation “No-Mor” added above his name:

No-Mor Garciaparra

If buying jerseys old or new is still too pricey for your budget, you can always make your own fan-wear. If you do, though, be sure to double-check your spelling. Whereas a misspelled Washington Nationals jersey raised $8,000 at a charity auction earlier this year, wearing a home-made Jacoby Ellsbury T-shirt that misspells the name of your favorite Red Sox is just plain embarrassing.

I think you mean "Ellsbury"