Every Bostonian knows the Red Sox suck right now. But at least we do have something to be happy about: the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. (Unless you've been living under a rock, it'sthis weekend.) As a long-time fan and as someone who has been to the place many, many times, I thought I'd write about it a little.
I attended the Open House they had the other day, and despite it being packed with people, it was a great experience. We walked the Green Monster seats, went though the press box, walked in some sections that I'll probably never sit in, and generally soaked in the atmosphere. The line for the dugout and stuff was really long, but honestly, I never pass up any opportunity to go into Fenway Park, so just being there was enough.
The thing is, no matter how disappointing the team is, Fenway is a place unlike any other. Yeah, you could say it's just a place to watch baseball (and hockey, and see concerts...) But there is no place to watch baseball like it in the universe. I would like to think if I was born in Pittsburgh and was a Pirates fan, I would still like Fenway Park. And it would be easy to complain about the cramped seats and the poles blocking your vision, and the high prices and disgusting restrooms. But even I can't do that, It's Fenway. That is part of its character. It's like in life and relationships. Nobody is perfect, and accepting someone for who they are is part of being in the relationship. Fenway is not perfect, but you accept the faults as part of the place. If not for these things, would it be the same? Okay, maybe the high prices can go, but the rest? No way.
Over the last 30 years or so, I have some great memories of being in Fenway Park. I remember sitting in the bleachers for my first game, and really expecting a home run up there. I remember the second game of their big winning streak in 1988, when Kevin Romine won the game in the bottom of the ninth with a home run. I remember watching the roided-up Oakland A's take batting practice and just launching balls over thw wall and onto Landsdowne St., and I remember my favorite player at the time, Jose Canseco, signing an autograph for me, and almost getting crushed agaist the wall by home plate getting it, but I still have that card. I remember the clinching game in 1995, when literally 35,000 people erupting in unison when Jeff Reardon got the final strikeout. I walked out of class in college to go be an extra in John Travolta's "A Civil Action," which was filimg at fenway. The scene was eventually cut, but it marks the only time i got paid to be at Fenway. (Man, I would have paid them.) The epic night in September 2003, when I was 11th row for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Then, probably the greatest game I've ever been to, Game 1 of the 2004 World Series, an 11-9 red Sox win en route to their first Championship in 86 years. Coming off the huge comeback against the Yankees, the place, the whole city, was perhaps never more alive than it was that night.
When I saw Springsteen there in 2003, it was like being in Mecca. Even Bruce, a Jersey-ite, felt the energy of the place. Before playing "My City of Ruins," he said, "There aren't too many places when you walk into, and even when it's empty, you can feel the soul of the city,... it's one of those places that's always full." It's not just a place to watch baseball. It has a spirit, a soul, a life. It is the last ballpark, and it is one of the few places that hasn't been given a ridiculous corporate-sponsored name. Fenway is a piece of history, and it's a really cool thing, baseball fan or not, really, to be a small part of that history. Even if it's just by being there.