January 1, 1970October 2003
I suppose that Red Sox fans are nationally famous – maybe even internationally famous. (And maybe even infamous.) Perhaps it is my contrary nature or the fact that all my ancestors came from New York but I’m not a Red Sox fan. There. It’s been said. I grew up in New Jersey, rooting for Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and, to some degree, this love – and I think that’s what it is – has never left me.
But I can’t watch their games on television. Up here on the hill, the word “never” is used when we inquire when we might be able to hook into cable. Of course, that leaves us with the option of the “dish,” but I’m not a big television fan and I can’t justify the expense. I putter along with the weak reception of a small antenna. I’m able to get the three basic networks which offer adequate options. I don’t really k now why anyone would need more. Except when it comes time for the World Series. In 1986, on a small black and white television (fine tuned with rabbit ears), I watched Bill Buckner let the hopes of all of New England roll between his legs. But times have changed and those of us without cable are now locked out of this All-American drama. In fact, it seems unAmerican to me that not all of us are able to watch these late fall athletic dramas.
A couple of years ago, when the Yankees were poised to go up against the Arizona Diamondbacks, I had to find a way to watch the games. I could have gone to a sports bar but that would require a lot of time spent in an unfamiliar environment. That would also require me to sit among a lot of Red Sox fans. Not a pretty thought. I also thought about renting a motel room so that I could watch in private. But by the time the Series was over, the price of the room might equal the cost of a dish plus a year of viewing. So, perhaps I could impose on a few friends? Well, if you can imagine trying to find a friend who would endure watching the Yankees do anything but lie down and die at the hands of the Red Sox, then you have a very generous imagination. At last, I remembered friends from Boston who have a summer place here in town – with cable connection. I mustered my courage and asked if I could use their house to watch the Series. Yes, of course, they graciously said, and they sent me their key.
A thrill raced through me. On the night of the first game, I drove over to the dark, deserted house. I let myself in. The house was colder than outdoors. I found a blanket, wrapped it around my shoulders and settled on the couch in front of the big screen. To my amazement, the Yankees won. The next night, I returned, dressed more warmly. It seemed even colder and so, again, I sat wrapped like a mummy, eyes glued to the tube. The competition teetered one way and then the other, the Diamondbacks inching ahead, then the Yankees triumphing. When Scott Brosius hit his last minute, game-saving home run in the 11th inning, I leapt to my feet, threw the blanket off and, in the quiet stillness of my friends’ house, I cheered like a lunatic. On the screen, the noise from the fans was deafening. I felt part of something distant, unquantifiable, and thrilling, which I guess is what being a fan is all about. At last, I silenced the television, snapped off the lights and went back outside into the cold October midnight. On the way home, I didn’t see a single light on, anywhere. I realized as I drove along the darkened roads, I had likely been the only one in town to watch the Yankees win. In another heartbreaking game, they lost the Series. That news was buried on the last page of the recalcitrant local paper, apparently unwilling to print anything that does not have to do with the home team. But I had seen it happen and remembered every delicious run.