The crowd at Fenway Park is like an unruly orchestra waiting for the maestro to arrive. We watch the game and pursue our individual conversational, nutritional and social agendas and wait for the moment when we are called upon to perform. While the game may last 3 or 4 hours, the crowd will only produce, at best, a few precious minutes of its synchronous, spontaneous and ecstatic music. Our contagious waves of whistles and percussive claps and loud cheers celebrate both the team’s achievement and our own good fortune to be part of the moment.
This guide is designed to help you appreciate some of the wonders, and dangers, of the Red Sox fans that surround you at Fenway.
During these moments we are not checking our cell phones or chatting about the latest work debacle or thinking about global warming. We are immersed in the crowd’s passion and, for a few seconds, there is nothing else. In between these fleeting moments of abandonment there are unmatched opportunities for people watching. This guide is designed to help you appreciate some of the wonders, and dangers, of the Red Sox fans that surround you at Fenway.
These fans are named for their practice of carrying a beer in each hand and should be given a wide berth (although Fenway’s 1918 dimensions make this impossible in most of its seats and aisles). You will want to be especially vigilant if you are seated in the same row as a double-fister, but their spill zone easily extends one row in each direction. The probability of spillage increases every inning until the 7th inning cutoff at which point the most dangerous double-fisters will depart Fenway for a local tavern where they can finish watching the game on TV and return to less arduous single-fisted drinking.
Although increasingly rare, a scorekeeper sighting at Fenway is very desirable. They are the best possible seat neighbors. They will be able to tell you exactly what you missed on the field when the double-fister spilled beer on you and you left to buy a replacement tee-shirt. Scorekeepers are quiet, polite, knowledgeable and have evolved enormous bladders.
Although technically not fans, the peanut vendors, who entertain the crowd with their accurate peanut delivering throws, deserve inclusion in our taxonomy. Fans love catching the bags of peanuts and watching other fans catch the bags. Children, in particular love observing the peanut pitchers and many will be more impressed by these tosses than by anything Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz is offering from the mound.
Coaches are the most wondrous and rarest find at Fenway. They can only be identified through conversation. If you are fortunate enough to discover a coach you may learn the true nature of grace. A few years ago, a coach seated in front of us turned around, smiled broadly and said to my wife: “You look like a lovely person and you probably don’t realize that your foot is sticking into the small of my back.” Simple. Pleasant. Enlightening. Who knew there was such an effective option to the “dirty look” technique?
The function of early leavers in the Fenway ecosystem is to make everyone else feel superior. They are easy to spot as they head for the exits in the mid to late innings when things are looking hopeless for the Sox. Early-leavers are forsaking the possibility of the most exquisite fan experiences, the late inning comeback and the bottom of the ninth walk-off. We come to the game for these moments and for the ecstatic music we make while celebrating them. The departure of early-leavers makes the reward even sweeter.
I should acknowledge that this taxonomy is limited to what can be observed from the infield grandstand where my seats are. Now that I’ve gotten the ball rolling it is time for you to take a swing. This guide needs supplemental intelligence gathered from the monster seats, the bleachers, and the boxes (where I am told there are modern conveniences like drink holders).
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