BOSTON, MA; OCT. 7, 2005 — Revenue is revenue. So when Fenway Park opened its doors for Game 3 of the A.D.L.S on Friday night, it let Pablo Rodas in. Not that his presence was particularly wanted.
Rodas, decked out in a pinstriped Yankees jersey with “Rodriquez” on the back, is the guy who goes to the car races for the crashes. To the hockey games for the fights. And in this case, he came to a key Red Sox playoff game hoping to experience first-hand the devastation of the hometown fans.
I found Rodas, a 20-year-old native of Fall River, MA, outside of Fenway Park on Lansdowne Street. A Manny Ramirez HR had just sailed (way) over his head, landing on the rooftop of an adjacent parking garage to pull the Red Sox within one run of the visiting White Sox, 4-3. A half-hour earlier, he had been watching the game from 10 rows behind the Boston dugout (We paid twelve hundred bucks for those seats, Rodas claimed). But by the fifth inning of the contest, he predictably became a target of the Game within the Game. Here’s how it works: (1) the hometown fans seek out a seatholder in Yankees regalia, and drive him nuts with a verbal berating, or worse; (2) the seatholder eventually reaches a boiling point, unleashing an F-Bomb, or worse; (3) nothing short of 50 biased witnesses immediately come forward, pointing to the offending Yankee fan; and (4) Fenway Park security summarily displaces the holder from the seat, much to the delight of the gallery.
Frankly, I’ve seen this scenario unwind numerous times at Yankees/Red Sox games. And the same game is played on Red Sox fans at Yankees Stadium (to a lesser degree). But at a Red Sox/White Sox game? Yep. Wear those pinstripes in Fenway, particularly with Boston on the brink of elimination following a magical, championship year, and you’re inviting conspiracy. Fair? No. True? Yes.
‘What is it that you hope to get out of this?” I asked Rodas, who to his credit stuck around the park after his ejection.
“I wanna see them get swept,” Rodas said in a Boston accent, of all things. “I hate them. Always have. My father grew up in Queens, and I’ve been a Yankees fan from day one.”
Frankly, I can sympathize with Rodas. He lives in foreign territory, surrounded by the enemy. That’s been my case as well, rooting for Boston while just 40 miles removed from New York City. It’s actually great fun to be in this situation when the hometown Yankees falter, because the blood-hungry NY media always rushes to the table to eat its own. Good reading, indeed. But when the Sox goes down, the reading can be particularly brutal.
Red later lost to White, 5-3, and Rodas got the sweep he wanted so badly. So did the NY media. The headline on the back cover of the New York Post read: Dead Sox: Idiots’ reign end as Chisox sweep. The text was sprayed over a picture of Johnny Damon, shown just after he struck out with the bases loaded to end the Sox’s half of the pivotal sixth inning. Inside the tabloid, there was more: “Hose Your Daddy” was the title of an article written by Michael Morrissey. The story was accompanied by a photo of former Yankee Orlando Hernandez pumping his fist after retiring Damon with the aforementioned strikeout. Another News writer, Kevin Kiernan, concluded that Hernandez (otherwise known as El Duque), got to finish a job that he started against the Red Sox last October 17th. That was Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, a game in which Hernandez had pitched for five innings before leaving with a 4-3 lead. Boston, of course, rallied to win the game and later the series. El Duque wasn’t wanted in New York after the 2004 season. But the fair winds blow hard in the Big Apple; now he’s apparently a hero of sorts. The New York media’s own version of the Game within the Game: reclaiming castoffs as their own, when they do what the hometown team cannot.
There was more of the same over at the New York Daily News. The back cover showed Hernandez, again with the fist pumping. The title: “Ex-Yank El Duque, Chisox sweep away reigning champion Red Sox”. Inside the tabloid, a panoramic picture of the Sox’s sullen dugout (post-game) was flanked by the headline: “New Curse as Boston Flops”. Clever, all this curse stuff.
By the way, I never got inside Fenway Park on Friday night. Tried, but failed. The only empty seats, it seems, were those vacated by evacuated Yankee fans. Instead, I went into the Park’s sports bar, Game On!, to watch the game on TV. During the telecast, the ESPN’s Chris Berman said one thing that really stuck to me. It was this: that many Sox fans feel as though they are playing with the House’s money this year. Translation, for the non-gamblers out there: Life was so good last year that we can run on those fumes for quite a while. Berman is right.
Watching the Sox struggle to get into the playoffs, and then to survive the playoffs, adds a lot of perspective to last year’s storybook plight. It ain’t always easy to score with the whole world watching, even if there are no outs and bases loaded. It ain’t always easy to turn a double-play with the whole world watching, even if you barely have to move to field the ball. Taking four in a row against the Yankees, and then four more in a row against a stacked Cardinals team? That’s special. Certainly worth giving back a little house money for.