Read my lips: Get me a passport out of overhyped Red Sox Nation

April 21, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

I COVERED the World Series last year, and it was pretty cool. The Boston Red Sox had not won a world title in 86 years and their fans were understandably moved by the experience. Who wouldn't be?

The whole country reached out and embraced the lovable, eccentric Sox, who shook off the Curse of the Bambino with a historic comeback in the American League Championship Series and then swept the St. Louis Cardinals to ease nearly a century of civic suffering.

The only reason I bring this up is because the Red Sox are in town for the first time this year and, well, I'm already sick of them. The crazy hair. The wall-to-wall nostalgia. The appearance by several Sox players on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy ("Not that there's anything wrong with that!")

It was OK for a month or two, and then all the books and movies started coming out ... and all the irritating lifelong Red Sox celebrity/fans started to get under my skin.

Note to Stephen King: We get it. Long before you started conjuring up demons at $10 million per book, you were tortured by the evil demons at Fenway Park. I suppose it's only fair that you now torture us with your co-authored day-by-day diary of the 2004 season, but it would have been so much better if you had actually written it like one of your scary bestsellers, with fans bleeding nacho cheese through their eye sockets and Ben Affleck threatening to make another movie with J-Lo.

Instead, we're left with the Attack of the Literary Seamheads.

You can't walk through a Barnes & Noble without being assaulted by a whole wall of Red Sox remembrances, from serious treatises on the mythical curse to philosophical dissertations on the true significance of Red Sox angst to the more perfunctory recaps of the championship season.

This is what happens when smart people think too much. There are more Ph.D's per capita in the Boston area than just about anywhere, but wouldn't you really rather have them using all that brain power to foster great breakthroughs in medical science than intellectualizing about a bunch of guys with bad hair who - when you break the game down to its basic components - spend the summer hitting balls with sticks and running around in circles?

Then comes Fever Pitch, the movie starring Jimmy Fallon as an obsessive Red Sox fan and Drew Barrymore as the mildly attractive business executive who falls in love with him even though he clearly is a freaking psycho groupie idiot. The movie actually was kind of fun, but how about a little perspective?

There were people in Boston who were outraged at the Farrelly Brothers for making the film ... not because it cast Red Sox fans in an odd light - though it certainly did - but because it has always been considered bad etiquette to poke fun at someone else's religion.

Boston baseball fans really do hand down their season tickets - and their neuroses - from generation to generation. Then they write books about it so that the rest of us can understand why all those years of futility were really a Red Sox badge of courage. Like we care.

Sure, we've got our share of crazy baseball fans in Baltimore, but they know when enough is enough. The Red Sox went 86 years without a championship and you still could scalp a ticket at Fenway for two times face value on a steamy Wednesday night in August. The Orioles go seven years without winning and Camden Yards is taken over by Sox and Yankee fans, which would be even more galling if they weren't accounting for so much of the Orioles' improving revenue picture.

If you doubt the impact of the neurotic northeastern baseball fan on the economic vitality of the Orioles and the Inner Harbor area, you should have stopped by for the two-game Tigers series, which drew the smallest crowd in Camden Yards history for Monday night's game and did only slightly better on Tuesday. I think I saw maybe three people wearing Tigers jerseys, and two of them were Dmitri Young.

The Red Sox are a whole different ballgame. They are still one of the best teams in baseball, though I don't believe they'll get back to the World Series this year. And Red Sox fans, even without the martyr complex, still are among the most passionate in professional sports.

Apparently, they also buy a lot of books.

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