Monday, July 30, 2007

Scott Wichmann: Old School Sox Fan

Over on Andrew Hamm's blog, there's a discussion of the phenomenon of the 'New School Red Sox Fans'-- Currently (and derisively) called the 'Pink Hat Crowd' by astute members of the Boston Sports Media. This nomenclature refers to the brand-spankin' new pink hats worn by young and often hardball-disinterested ladies who simply wanted to buy a Sox hat because it's "soooo right now." They're the gals you see on TV at Fenway text messaging their gal pals and not watching the game. Obviously not all ladies are like this, and whatever anyone does at a ballgame is their business-- I just hate to see a good seat at Fenway gobbled up by someone who has no clue how lucky they are to be there in the first place.

The merch is flying off the shelves and the folks like the way it looks. But some of them can't name anyone on the team. It drives. Me. CRAZY.

The Pats fan base suffered the same phenomenon back in 1993, when the Patriots hired Bill Parcells to coach, Drafted Drew Bledsoe, and switched their helmet logo from the hilariously un-threatening 'Pat the Patriot' (The disgruntled minuteman in the three-point stance) in favor of the more aerodynamic and marketable 'Flying Elvis' logo, which I always thought looked a little bit like New Hampshire's fabled 'Old Man of the Mountain'-- which has since crumbled like the Yankee dynasty-- but I digress. The point is that everyone and their mother was now a 'lifelong, diehard Pats fan,' but most of them were made out of Phoney Baloney. (Which, Ironically, is what I eat now that I'm a Vegetarian-- so what does that make me?? Aww crap, 'philosophical conundrum alert'-- umm, I'll table that tangental thought as well...)

I remember getting into a heated argument with a guy at the Friendship Bar & Grille in Pittsfield Mass back in '93 after I walked into the bar wearing a brand-new 'Flying Elvis' Pats hat. This guy called me a 'Johhny-come-lately' and I took umbrage. This was back when I used to hit the sauce pretty hard, so it's all a little blurry... Anyway, the point is that the New England fan base is a grizzled lot, and you've got to know your stuff if you wannna hang around. I understand it, and I always say that "you've got to support your team through thick & thin." That's why I still wear my Celtics gear now & again, and I have a feeling that my boys in Green & White may actually become RELEVANT again, but I'll shut up so as not to jinx anything in that department...

Anyway, back to my main point-- this phenomenon of 'New school' Sox fans is just, well, WEIRD to me. I'm just not used to it.

On the 4th of July 2005, Jenny, Zac & I sat next to four 17-18 year olds (two Girls and Two Guys) at the Diamond for a game against the Columbus Clippers, the Yankee AAA Team. These kids were ALL decked out in their brand spanking new Red Sox t-shirts & hats. Of course, the girls had Pink Sox Hats. Then, one of the guys started talking to me about the Sox in this thick southern good-ole boy accent, and I was like "Am I in Bizarro World??" They were nice enough kids, and I was glad to have them aboard the SS RED SOX, but I couldn't help but flashback to my own ordeal, spending part of my childhood (6th-9th grade) in Pennsylvania, where all we ever got were Phillies games and the American League was, like, a RUMOR. I used to read the Box Scores of the late games two days later to quench my insatiable appetite for All Things Sox-Related. Thank goodness they made the postseason in 1986 or I would probably have never have seen them on TV all year long.

So, most people know that I've been a Sox fan as far back as I can remember, and they know that as far as I'm concerned, the Red Sox are like BREATHING. I can't remember when I wasn't a lunatic Rooter for the 'local nine' and I'm tied to them through my family my New England roots-- Heck, I even have the same BIRTHDAY as Ted Williams (August 30th). Anyway, I just thought I would post a picture to show Andrew (and everybody who knows me and my insane obsession) just exactly HOW far back me & the Sox go.

Check it out...

Scott Wichmann is an OLD SCHOOL RED SOX FAN.


Frank Creasy said...

And believe it or not folks, that shirt STILL FITS! (A little loose now that Scott has thankfully lost that baby fat...look at those chubby cheeks, willya?)

Me, I can lay no such long-time claim of associations have wandered a bit over the years, though I was a big Fran Tarkenton fan back when he was still a NY Giant, then a Viking later (how can you NOT like a team with a defense known as Purple People Eaters?) These days, my suffering goes along with every UVA football loss. My family's roots in C-Ville go back to pre-Civil War days, so Mr. Jefferson's University holds a place dear to my heart even if I'm a Longwood grad (which, by the way, was styled after UVA including the Rotunda).

But back to the point - GO SOX!

Andrew Hamm said...

I have to confess that I myself come fairly recently to the SS Red Sox.

I was born in Connecticut to a family that moved around the northeast a lot before settling in near D.C. when I was nine. We left New England when I was two, but stayed in south Jersey long enough for me to see a game, one single game, at the Vet with Pete Rose at first, Michael Jack Schmidt at third and Steve Carlton on the mound. I wasn't any good at baseball personally, though I did play Little League for three years, mostly right field. Eventually, I got to play that coveted third base and even a little catcher. Then I discovered reading books and acting and forgot that baseball was cool until the 1993 Phillies reminded me.

Karen and I got married in 1997 and moved to New York. We were in Inwood, right across the river from the Bronx, the Yankee dynasty was in full steam, and the whole thing just felt sticky and icky. Well before coming into my ancestral Red Sox fandom, I reflexively loathed the Yankees.

We moved to Albany (a great town, by the way) in 1999. Albany is in many ways the northernmost suburb of New York City, but a funny thing happened after dark: Red Sox games on AM radio waves came drifting over the Massachusetts mountains. I was fascinated by the broadcast team, so different from the brashness and gratuity of the New York media I had been slathered with. And there was something so different about the team.

Then in 2001 my brother John, a manic Red Sox fan living in Mass., scored a handful of tickets to Fenway. It was Red Sox versus Orioles in Cal Ripken's final season. I drove out to spend the weekend.

I had been to Yankee Stadium to see the O's play the Yankees earlier (in the game where Pettitte took a line drive off the face and his replacement Hideki I-Rob-You got torched for something like nine runs in relief). Yankee Stadium is a special place to see a game, I have to admit. Championships and history are in the air. So are vile curse words, the smell of urine, and an attitude of entitlement. In the Bronx, every time Ripken came to the plate, he was greeted with a chorus of boos and shouts of "YOU SUCK, RIPKEN!" and "SIT DOWN, OLD MAN!"

Fenway was different.

It was like nothing I had ever experienced in sports. For one thing, it's so tiny. And the supports holding the second level look so small it seems like faith alone is supporting the upper deck. We sat on the third base side on the lower level, about thirty rows back from the field. No championships were in the air, not even echoes. Baseball was. Love of baseball and striving and winning and losing and there's always next year. The place was packed, and reeked of grass, spilled beer, and hope. And when Cal Ripken Jr. came to the plate the Red Sox faithful, burned by him for 20 years, gave him a Standing. Ovation. Every. Time.

That was it. I re-organized my MLB Showdown team to include as many Red Sox as I could. I turned on the radio to listen to Red Sox games when the sun went down. And I screamed like a madman when Curt Schilling, my favorite player from the 1993 Phillies who had reignited my love for baseball, signed with Boston and not the Yankees.

So that's my story. Yeah, I'm a bit of a Johnny-come-lately. But coming before 2004 has to count for something.

Scott Wichmann said...

Yes, my friend-- THAT's what it's all about. what a great baseball post. Damn, it gave me goosebumps.

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