BOSTON, MA , October 17, 2004 — Larry David is TV’s King of the Idiots. His writing breathed life into Seinfeld’s George Constanza character. He plays his idiotic self (or, we would hope, a caricature of himself) on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. But when it comes to the Red Sox–who have labeled themselves as Major League Baseball’s “idiots”–David is likely to be overheard saying, “No, No–I’m not with them.”
Even the most dim-witted creatures have their limits, apparently.
David sat in a front-row seat just past third base during Game Three of the ALCS at Fenway Park on Saturday. His canary yellow baseball cap provided no clue as to his allegiance in the contest. I was seated just a dozen rows behind David, though the quality of his seat was infinitely better than mine (my $125 ticket had a “walking traffic” obstruction advisory stamped on it; I can only imagine that his ticket said something like, “A view nearly good enough for a hard-to-please, self-absorbed, Hollywood prima donna, with moderate potential for exposure on the national broadcast of this event.”). Not that there’s anything wrong with accepting a ticket like that.
From my obstructed vantage point, I could detect nary a cheer or jeer from David, which should have been a tip-off as the game progressed. Ultimately, he revealed his true colors when leaving the game early after the seventh inning. As David walked up the aisle, he was briefly stopped by a Yankees fan who asked: “Hey Larry…Yankees fan or Red Sox fan? David, with an awkward, Curb Your Enthusiam-esque sort of delivery, quietly replied, “Yankees”. The fan put out his closed fist, and David half-heartedly responded in kind before continuing his retreat to the exits.
It struck me as particularly unfitting that David wound up looking like one of the most intelligent people in the house on this night. He commits time to his team, and receives ample rewards for doing so (World Series championships, permission to parody George Steinbrenner on Seinfeld, etc.). He doesn’t sleep over at the ticket offices to gain admission to the big game; a quick phone call does it. And he’s wise enough to beat the traffic when the Yankees are up big after seven innings.
And then there were the Idiots. We root to the last pitch in a lopsided game, even though the scoreboard and 86 years of futility make that an admittedly-laughable pursuit. We look for reasons why the losing continues and then, after a bit of reflection, say things like, “Nomar must have snuck into the game”. We invite people like 100-year-old Rose DeChiara to the game to participate in first-pitch ceremonies, and then examine her in awe while thinking, “Wow, she’s actually seen the Sox win it all.” Of course, none of this spirited behavior ever gets us anywhere. But the chase along the way is what separates us from our hated rival fan base in New York.
If things don’t work out for the Sox this year (and this continues to be an “if” in the minds of some Sox fans, as evidenced by the “SOX IN SEVEN!” chant that was heard in the stands after Game Three), then we’ll show up again next year, recharged and ready to tackle Year 87. We’ll continue to throw Yankee HR balls back onto the field in disgust, even if the throw must be executed from outside the park on Lansdowne Street (as was the case with the throw-back that occurred after Alex Rodriquez’s blast in the 3rd inning: true story.) And we’ll continue to await the next great Sox mantra, with the 2005 trash heap holding old-time greats like “Cowboy Up”, “Reverse the Curse” and “Why Not Us?” Over the winter, somebody somewhere will scratch out a winner on a scrap piece of paper while daydreaming about a warm spring day at Fenway. And the rest of us will eat it up like the cheese it usually is, happy to liberate a twenty dollar bill in the process.
There was a point last night–about the same time Larry David was making his exit–that I witnessed something that gave me great hope for the future of this fan base. Two shirtless college students were in the men’s bathroom, removing red paint from their faces while giving the sinks a bloodbath appearance in the process. It was a setting ripe for ridicule. But no one in the busy washroom uttered a single critical word as the face-painters monopolized the water sources. Instead, a 40-something fan exhibited both the support and wit that often go hand-in-hand in Boston: “Guys, that facepaint was a great idea…four hours ago.” Everyone in the area laughed. Idiots, you see, enjoy a light moment amid a painful defeat. It’s been that way for years.
Even in the stands, the Yankees were getting the better of it. With one out in the bottom of the ninth, a gentle foul ball looked to land softly behind the New York dugout. In terms of catch-ability, this ball was the creampuff of the game. It landed amongst a circle of Sox fans, which proceeded to bat it around a few times before deflecting it into the hands of an opportunistic Yankees fan who had raced onto the scene. Unbelievable.
When the final out was recorded, I took one final look around the park. I found myself mesmerized by the Prudential Building, which could be seen in the distance past the right field wall. By careful selecting which lights to turn off and which lights to keep on, the tenants successfully spelled out “GO SOX” on the side of the building. It was like the largest Lite Brite board you’ve ever seen. I thought about the happy moments that must have preceded that accomplishment: hundreds of giddy Sox fans pouring over an official Prudential Building bulletin, complete with a full schematic for executing the plan. Somewhere in the building, I imagine that some poor soul (there’s always one) put the highly-engineered plan at risk before being discovered by a die-hard collaborator: “Dammit, Kenny. The instructions for your office say “LIGHTS OFF”. Now go back and kill your desk lamp before you screw the whole thing up.”
As I was leaving the park, I noticed a voice mail message on my cell phone. It was my brother John, who was somewhere in Fenway Park but not with me. We had not crossed paths in Boston on this weekend, which under ordinary circumstances would have been unthinkable. But he failed to bring his cell phone with him, and due to crowd noise I missed nearly all of the phone calls he made from pay phones. John hadn’t an ounce of fight left at game’s end, and he sounded quite like a beaten man on his message: “I called to see if you guys wanted to go for a drink,” he said, “but I am not even sure if I can stomach one. I just can’t take this anymore. I’ll call you back in a little while.”
That call never came. And so my girlfriend and I walked back to the Sheraton, where we had parked our car for the best-case sum of $10. It was a nice walk of about a mile or so, and I felt for sure my cell would ring again as we continued on. It didn’t. Just then, on the sidewalk outside of the Sheraton, I saw a white, round piece of paper on the ground. I knew the dimensions of this circular object well. I picked it up and turned it over. Sure enough, it was one of our YankeesHater stickers. John had spent the hour prior to the game handing them out at Fenway, without my help (every now and then, unadulterated girlfriend time is a must). Eerie. On this night, I had not a clue where my brother was. But suddenly, I felt connected. Like me, he would be back for next season. And many more like it, if need be. This is true because he’s a Red Sox fan. A passionate, loyal and idiotic Red Sox fan. And smarter may he never be.