Monthly Archives: August 2007

Fenway Holiday

Below is another article in a series I’m writing for my Red Sox Nation Presidential Campaign. Thank you for voting at, from August 30 to September 9.

The risk of giving my son his first Fenway experience at the age of three was significant: what if he was too young to appreciate it and remember it?

But I was so eager to introduce him to Fenway Park and the Red Sox, I took the gamble on Father’s Day in 2002. And despite the cool, damp weather, we had a fantastic time. He stood the whole game; Cracker Jacks, cotton candy, and Fenway Franks sustained him; he was fascinated by the wave; he loved the chants, the clapping, and singing Take Me Out To the Ballgame; and although he paid little attention to the action and didn’t understand a thing that was going on, he never got bored.

After the three-hour game, we had the option of heading home or standing in an incredibly long line under the right field seats to go onto the field for the first ever “Father’s Day catch.” I gave him the options and let him choose. “Let’s go on the field, Daddy!” (What a kid!) We waited and waited, but he never complained. By the time we made it onto the outfield grass, we had been at Fenway for about 4 1/2 hours (which is 9 hours in 3 year-old time).

I recall thinking, while rolling balls to him, chasing him, and wrestling with him in the shadow of the Green Monster, that this was my favorite day as a parent. It was surreal. I wished it could last forever. And I hoped my son would remember it, too.

Fast-forward four months to the fall of 2002. I was sitting with my son at our kitchen table, a wall calendar in front of us, filling in the major holidays together. We noted Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, July 4th, and a few others. When we were done, he said with alarm, “Daddy, Daddy, we forgot the biggest holiday of all!” We did? “Yeah Daddy, we forgot Father’s Day at Fenway!”

(No, I didn’t forget.)

Mission Impossible: Getting Nomar’s Autograph

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’m writing as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation.Nomar signs autographs

OK, put yourself in my shoes, and tell me WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?

I was sitting beside my six year-old son on a grassy hill in deep left field during the late innings at a Dodgers-Red Sox spring training game in Vero Beach, Florida. I noticed #5 of the Dodgers signing autographs next to the wall beside first base. I recalled how powerless I felt when, on the plane to Florida, my son said his main goal of this special trip was to”get Nomar’s autograph.” I wasn’t sure how long Nomar had been signing – would he quit in ten seconds? – and the pack of fans around him was large. I knew that if I pointed out Nomar to my son and then he failed to get an autograph, he would be crushed. I knew that if I didn’t tell my son about Nomar being over there, he wouldn’t notice and our pleasant day would continue, undisturbed. Looking across the vast stadium at Nomar, I calculated the chances of getting his autograph at about 10%. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?

I decided 10% was high enough to give my son’s dream an outside shot. I pointed out Nomar to my son and asked if he wanted to run over to the other side of the park, emphasizing that Nomar might stop signing any second. “Yeah Daddy, let’s go, NOW!” And we started running. (Insert Mission Impossible theme song here.)

When we got to the top of the aisle leading down to the wall where Nomar was signing, we saw that the crowd of fans around him was about fifteen people deep – 80% of them adults. It was a pseudo-line, yet it was obvious that the people at the back of the pack would stay at the back of the pack and go away disappointed. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?

I decided to teach my son how to get an autograph. “Listen,” I said, “If you want Nomar’s autograph, go down there and slither like a SNAKE to the front of that pack, then stick your glove right in front of Nomar’s belly button. Do you understand?”

“But Daddy, that’s cutting,” he said. (What a good boy.) It was time to teach him about the cutting exception.

“It’s not cutting when you’re a kid and all those people are grown-ups,” I explained to him. “Nomar wants to sign autographs for kids, not fathers. Nomar WANTS YOU to slither to the front of the line. All kids slither to the front of theNomar at spring training, 2006 pack, and that’s OK. That’s the law of autographs,” I explained. “Now GO.”

And off he went. Slithering better than a snake could slither. I don’t think he touched anyone on his way to the front, right in front of Nomar, where he thrust his glove towards Nomar’s belly button (see left). Nomar handed a hat back to a girl, adjusted his sunglasses, looked at the outstretched arms before him, smiled at my son, then took his glove and signed it with his blue Sharpie.

A MIRACLE! A boy’s impossible spring training dream come true. I wish I could describe the look of wonder he had his face. Although that autograph has almost completely faded from my boy’s ragged glove, the memory will always be vivid. (And Nomar remains one of my favorite four athletes of all time.)

20 Presidents at Game On!

Rob, Robert, Caroline, Erin, EmmaAll of us who attended the Red Sox Nation Presidential Campaign Event at Game On! last night had a lot of fun. The event featured three-minute platform speeches from 20 of the 25 “finalist candidates” who were able to attend, and was hosted by Hazel Mae and Dr. Charles Steinberg.

While singing I’m A Member of Red Sox Nation with my son, niece, and friends, Big Papi cranked a triple vs. Tampa Bay on the large screen TVs (nope, those cheers from the crowd were not for us). The platforms and personalities of the candidates were incredibly diverse, yet when we all got up on stage together to sing “Sweet Caroline” at the end of the night, there was not a shred of competitiveness in the room. Slapping each other on the back, we all knew we were in the company of family members we just hadn’t met before. We were all related in a way that reached to the core of our identities. It was like meeting long lost brothers and sisters, all of us sharing the same genetic neuroses, the same obsessive passion for baseball, the Red Sox, and Fenway Park.

It was a privilege to share the stage with Hall of Famer, Peter Gammons, and I enjoyed meeting Sam Horn, who is a truly classy guy and gave a rousing speech. And 18 year-old Will French, born in Connecticut and now living in Rye, New York, stole the show with his raw humor. Pretty much the only thing missing at the event was negativity, which made it feel strangely un-Red Soxian. Is this what it feels like in Anaheim sports bars?

If I were running this thing, I’d end the campaign now and appoint all 25 finalists, or hold an election to solidify a group of 10-15 “presidents.” Multiple presidents could serve the fans, and the Red Sox, much better than one person could. “President of Red Sox Nation” has a nice ring to it, but given that the Nation isn’t a government and doesn’t really need a single decision-maker, wouldn’t everyone benefit more from a group of RSN presidents reflecting all kinds of RSN diversity and points of view? I’d hate to lose the sense of shared purpose, enthusiasm, and camaraderie we started to cultivate on Tuesday night. And how can Rem Dawg, Peter Gammons, and Sam Horn NOT have a role in this first “administration?”

(photo by Flo Farrell)

Stage 5: Home is Where The Red Sox Are Playing

TBCC at Camden Yardshe following article was written by my brother, Benjamin Crawford (left), the greatest Red Sox fan I know, who lives with his family just outside Washington, D.C. He liked my “four stages of Red Sox fan evolution” but felt that HIS stage was missing…

Stage 5 is the stage where you move away from New England and Fenway, lucky to see the place even once a year, yet still impart the fandom to your kids…and, in my case at least, wife. This is the stage that a large number of the 40,000 fans at Saturday night’s game in Baltimore come from….and my sister’s family in Allentown, Pennsylvania….and of course, me. We highlight the days on our calendars when the Red Sox will be playing at a stadium within driving distance…we travel five hours with our small children to see the Sox play an exhibition game…..we teach our kids that the blue hat with the red “B” (and, of course, the red hats with the B and the green hats with the B and the pink hats with the B) is the one we root for, despite being surrounded by “W” hats or O’s hats or, in many cases, the dreaded interlocking NY. We miss work (don’t just go in late) to fly around the country to see the Sox play in the postseason. We read the Globe and Herald every day online….even in January. And when we read the Globe, we wish Peter Gammons would go back to doing what he does best, the Sunday notes, and stop his ESPN gig. We teach our kids to sing “root root root for the RED SOX” during Take Me Out to the Ballgame. We cover the walls of our basements with pictures of Fenway, and old timers in Red Sox hats (in my case it’s autographed photos of Ellis Burks and the immortal Butch Hobson). We hang Red Sox/Fenway stuff in our offices…prominently. We stand out as Red Sox fans.

Fenway Park is a place we only see on our TVs (many people in RSN, in this stage of fandom, panicked when it appeared that DirecTV would be the sole carrier of MLB extra innings) and hear through our radios (thank you,!). Our Red Sox experiences these days are in far away ballparks. With that in mind, we revel in walking around a visiting ballpark and seeing the people who make up Red Sox Nation, and of course their Red Sox paraphernalia (evidence that there really is an article of clothing out there for everyone). With a mix of amusement and pride, we laugh as the home fans get increasingly annoyed as they look around and see themselves surrounded…and drowned out…by Red Sox fans. We giddily discuss the vagaries of this year’s squad with our neighbors in the stands…because we can. Where I work, nobody cares about whether Dustin Pedroia is leading off or hitting second. But these people do. My neighbors don’t care that Francona went with Delcarmen instead of Okajima in the eighth inning in a game RSN at Camden Yardsthe previous week…but these people do. It’s our cross to bear and our badge of honor to overanalyze every minute detail of the team.

Perhaps more than anything, we get goosebumps when we hear a non-Fenway stadium rise up in chorus, “Let’s go Red Sox” (and are pleased to note the beautifully harsh Boston accent…”Sawx” instead of “Sox”).

My college roommate, Mike Mahoney, grew up a member of the Nation on the coast of New Hampshire. He left New England eight years ago to take a job in Chicago, and since then has moved to Philadelphia. By his own admission, he hasn’t been to Fenway in years. However, by his count he has seen the Sox play in both Chicago stadiums, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Yankee Stadium, Busch Stadium (Game 4…he was there!), and Seattle. This is what he has to say about stage 5:

“I have good friends who are still in New England, and of course I am jealous of them when they go to Fenway. But I also love calling them when I am in a ballpark somewhere else and I know they’re back home watching on TV — jealous of me. And I tell them that there is no way to fully understand the power of Red Sox Nation until you’ve seen it in another ballpark. It is one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced, and it is probably the thing that makes me prouest of where I grew up. It really is an identity. To be honest, I look forward to getting the schedule each year now because I see it as an opportunity to visit a new place, using the Sox as my excuse. Because no matter what city you are in, if the Red Sox are in town, it feels like home.”

“I sometimes watch the Red Sox players in other ballparks and wonder how they view this, if they ever talk about it with each other. Even more, I watch FORMER Red Sox players who are now on the other side…a guy like Millar with the Orioles…and I wonder if they have more of an appreciation of their days in a Sox uniform. It really is a traveling carnival. As an Oriole, Millar will play the Blue Jays or the Devil Rays in front of about 10,000 fans. When he was a member of the Red Sox, every game in every stadium was a sellout…and most of the people were there to see him and his teammates. What an amazing thing!”

The Birth of a Believer

young Sox fan

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’m writing as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation. 

My eight year-old son is a believer. In his short life, he has attended some of the greatest regular season Red Sox games of them all. He was at Fenway for the Varitek-ARod fight followed by the Mueller walk-off vs. Mariano Rivera in 2004; he was there for the Mark Loretta walk-off home run vs. Seattle on Patriots Day in 2006; and he was there for the incredible six-run, ninth inning rally vs. Baltimore on Mother’s Day earlier this spring (Sox won, 6-5).

He was also there for the 14-0 loss to the Braves in May. It was at this game that I realized he has become a FULLY EXPECTANT BELIEVER in the Red Sox.

The weather was horrible. By the end of the 7th inning, with the Braves leading 11-0 and a steady downpour soaking Fenway, only a few thousand fans remained in the stands. My son was shivering so I asked him if he wanted to head home. “No way, Daddy!” he said, insulted. “Daddy, we’re going to come back and win this game.” Then he commanded, “Put on your rally cap!” So I turned my cap inside out. And so did all the people sitting near us.

In the 8th inning, completely drenched, he turned to me again and said with absolute seriousness, “Daddy, the Red Sox are winning this game.” I replied, “I know they are.” In the top of the ninth, the Braves scored three more runs, and before the Sox came up in the bottom of the ninth, he said, “That’s actually good, Daddy, because now the comeback will have three more runs and that will be more exciting.” “You’re right,” I replied. “LET’S GO RED SOX!” he continued to yell through the raindrops. The Sox went one-two-three in the ninth, and the worst Sox game of the year (from a spectator’s perspective) was over. My son was pensive as we walked out of Fenway.

On the drive home, he was quiet and I thought he was asleep until he said, “Daddy, I know this sounds strange, but I’m going to say it anyway. I really think it’s…. funny that the Red Sox didn’t win. I mean, I really really thought they were going to come back. Even with two outs in the ninth inning, I just knew they were going to win.” Then, he fell asleep. His earnest faith gave me goosebumps.

How lucky am I to be this boy’s father, and to be raising him a few miles from Fenway? How lucky is Red Sox Nation to have this kid as a citizen?

Evolution of a Red Sox Fan: Stages 3 and 4

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’m writing as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation.

My last article discussed stages 1 and 2 of the four stages of evolution of a Red Sox fan. Now, it’s time to take a close look at stages 3 and 4. As I said earlier, no stage is better or higher than another (indeed, I wish I’d stayed in stage 1 forever) and all fans at all stages are equal in their Red Sox Nation citizenship. (Did you go through a stage that could be described differently? I’d love to hear about it.)

Stage 3: Prioritization, Re-calibration, Sacrifice Stage 3 is the hardest one to enter, because it requires a complete overhaul of one’s habits and values regarding focus on baseball. This is the stage when we learn how to integrate our passion for the Red Sox with our desire for solid, long-lasting relationships with people who don’t share our Red Sox obsession. Some consider stage 3 to be evidence of fan regression, not evolution. (I do see their point.)

When our spouses, significant others, and children (who, although we love them, are occasionally “significant interruptors”) request our undivided attention when the game is on; when we’re absorbed in the pages of the Sunday Globe or Herald; when the World Series pre-game show has just begun; when we’ve got tickets and we’re running out the door — we are facing a stage 3 moment. In this stage, a Red Sox fan can either take a deep breath and calmly engage with the significant interruptor, or cling to the die-hard-fan mentality, blow-off the significant interruptor, and strain or destroy his/her relationships. A genuine stage 3 fan has learned to manage his expectations about how much time he will be able to spend “being an active fan,” and recognizes the moments when he’s torn from his fan experience as “critical relationship-defining junctures” and “necessary baseball sacrifices.” Every fan who enters stage 3 and re-calibrates his priorities is destined for long, contented interpersonal relationships, a degree of baseball starvation, and a dependence on Tivo.

I had a stage 3 moment last Tuesday night after my wife and I had finished putting our four children (ages 8 to 1) to bed. While enjoying the fifth inning of the Sox-Orioles game on NESN, one of the four kids woke up, came downstairs, and asked me if she could watch a Dora The Explorer video. (She had fallen asleep at 5:00pm and we were hoping she’d sleep through the night…) The stage 2 fan in me felt a twinge of resentment and even wanted to say, “Nope, sorry darlin’,” and just endure the little girl’s woeful sobs. But the stage 3 fan in me won out, and 30 minutes of Dora’s Pirate Adventure ensued. I was proud of myself. For my “evolution.”

ballplayers in the outfieldStage 4. “I am one with baseball.”A stage 4 fan is one who, with an endless archive of Red Sox memories, has developed a philosopher’s appreciation of The Game; whose passion is ignited by the way a third baseman kicks the dirt between pitches; who knows the Red Sox will win another World Series in his/her lifetime, and it won’t be because of a particular managerial move or trade, but because the stars align and the players get on a roll; who sees baseball as a metaphor for numerous truths and paradoxes of the natural world; who can thoroughly enjoy watching any major or minor league team play, and indeed, can get as much enjoyment from watching a local little league game as from a Red Sox game; who reveres a slick-fielding, reliable shortstop with superior range (regardless of his ability to hit) as much as a dominant closer or triple-crown contender; whose number-one reason for not wanting to miss an inning of any game is the fear that something will happen, the exact nature of which he’s never seen before; who understands completely that the Red Sox are a business, but who still sees the magic in baseball and the majesty of Fenway Park; who is grateful for the chance to watch Derek Jeter play, even though he’s a Yankee; and who is deeply moved by baseball’s unparalleled capacity for enchantment, particularly in the hearts of children, and is on a quest to recapture his/her own innocent, child-like appreciation for the game (stage 1).

Stage 4 is sort of like becoming a baseball buddha. Of course, stage 4 encompasses all the other stages, because the stages are cumulative to some degree. But at the same time, stage 4 is absolutely distinct from the other stages. And by the way, only those of us who were fans in 1918 were able to access stage 4 prior to the last out of the 2004 World Series. (Now, we all can.) Perspective, appreciation, and sagacity are impossible when you’ve only experienced heartache your whole life and you actually wonder if curses are real.

Being the father of an 8 year-old Red Sox fanatic has launched me into the realm of stage 4. While my love for the Red Sox remains very personal, the most joyful aspect of my fan experience involves my oldest son (the other three haven’t caught the baseball bug yet). I am re-living stage 1 through him, and loving it even more this time around. I have witnessed first-hand how baseball has led my son to dream big dreams and believe anything is possible; how baseball fills his afternoons with hour upon hour of serious play; how being at Fenway engrosses him and engages his imagination in spectacular ways; and how Red Sox baseball has become essential common ground in our very close father-son relationship, ground to build on for years to come. (And now, I understand how much fun my parents had with me and my three siblings when we were stage 1 fans.)

Are you a stage 5 fan? If so, let me know what’s in store for me. Many, many thanks…..

Evolution of a Red Sox Fan: Stages 1 and 2

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’m writing as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation.

I’m a different Red Sox fan now than I was as a kid, and before I had kids, and before 2004. Is it possible that all Red Sox fans go through an evolutionary process? I’ll go on the record asserting that there are four distinct stages in the evolution of a serious Red Sox fan (at least, there have been four for me). No stage is necessarily better or higher than another (indeed, I’m striving to return to stage 1), and all fans at all stages are equal in their Red Sox Nation citizenship. Here’s how I’d define the first two stages.

Stage 1. Discovery, Innocence, OptimismThis is the stage in a Red Sox fan’s life when he/she is awakened to the existence of the Red Sox and Fenway Park, and when everything about the team is joyful and thrilling. (Stage 1 fans could be six year-old children, or college students from outside New England, for example.) People in this stage have feelings for the team that resemble a very intense crush. They have a favorite Sox player whom they idolize, treasure the Sox posters in the Sunday Globe, and cannot conceive of a scenario where the Sox fail to win the World Series this year (they are overflowing with hope.)

For me, this stage began in about 1976 when I was in second grade and it continued through high school and the 1985 season. I kept a few journals for school during these years, and half of my entries focused on the Red Sox and the Sox-Yankees rivalry. All entries were cheerful. The journal entry I wrote the day after Bucky Dent’s homer in ’78 (I was ten) hints at more melodrama than pain. My eight year-old son is in stage 1 now, and I pray for him that it lasts as many years as possible. These are the wonderful years of baseball innocence.

Stage 2. Identity, Obsession, Vulnerability This is the stage of the “die-hard” fan. These fans have several emotional Red Sox memories (or scars), and their excitement about the Red Sox has blossomed into a full-fledged addiction. They cannot miss a game. Or even an inning of a game. People in this stage throw their souls at the mercy of the Red Sox’ fortunes. They experience unparalleled euphoria when things are going well, but are vulnerable to deep depression when the team disappoints. Every win or loss is taken personally and somehow reflects their own self-value. Some fans choose to never leave this stage, and we admire them for that.

For me, stage 2 began when I went to college in New Hampshire and was surrounded by people from all over the world, but mostly from New York and New Jersey. The Red Sox served as the core of my identity. I felt like a full-fledged member of the team. I would travel very, very long distances, stand in long lines (even overnight), pay money I didn’t have, and change any long-standing plans (such as participating in a relative’s wedding) to watch them play in person. Like I say in my song, it’s a kind of insanity. (Most fans in stages 3 and 4 re-enter stage 2 when the Sox play the Yankees, or are in the playoffs and World Series.)

Coming soon, the definitions of Red Sox Nation citizens in stages 3 and 4 of their fan evolution.