GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 26, 2013

Fishtown Local: Overplaying our Fenway hands

Fishtown Local
Gordon Baird

---- — I was there. It was ugly, I can tell you.

Everybody heard, read and talked about it. but I saw it. It was ugly — A-Rod ugly. But his ugliness turned our beloved Red Sox fans into A-Rod Ugly Monsters of our own undoing. There were plenty of lessons to be learned.

It was eight days ago at Fenway. Sox vs. Yanks. A gorgeous night. Lots of emotion, color, hoopla, a pennant race for the Good Guys, and an also-ran season so far for the Bad Guys in gray.

They were a dispirited lot, those Yankees. They were kinda moping and even dragging a little. They had been shellacked the previous night by our heroes and the media had been all over Alex Rodriguez for his suspension, appeal, lies, connections, and rift with his own club where the Yankee management was tying to weasel out of their huge mistake of a deal with the fallen sports idol.

He had been plunked in the first inning by a Red Sox pitcher which had emptied both benches but no punches were thrown on behalf of the unloved, spoiled superstar by his teammates — one of whom, catcher Frank Cerveli, A-Rod had just thrown under the steroid bus in the ongoing investigation and scandal.

The game went back and forth. But the Sox had scratched and clawed their way back to a tie and then had pulled ahead 6-3.

Yet something began to happen in Fenway. Whether it was the excruciatingly slow pace of the game or the submarine-like humidity and heat in the stadium, but the fans began to take control of the next act of the play.

As the sixth inning began, the grounds crew had been dragging the infield dirt to reset the surface and A-Rod had come our early to take some extra warm up swings. As he did so, the crowd became “doomed to repeat history” as the pundits always warn.

Cut immediately to 1986, the Red Sox up in the score and the World Series against the New York Mets — notice, it’s always New York. We were poised to break the jinx, at that point 68 years long, and champagne was on ice in the clubhouse. We were comfortably cruising and our Khama was still intact.

Until, that is, our fans turned the tide against themselves. Up strode Darryl Strawberry who had been simply miserable at the plate for the whole series after being touted as the next big thing all year. The fans overplayed their and the team’s hands: “Daaaaarrrryllll, Daaaaarrrryllll, Daaaaarrrryllll,” the chanted non-stop, rubbing it in, an insult to injury, louder and louder.

It became a party, a catcall, a celebration and a return shot of all the misery Bostonians had suffered at the hands of New Yawkas all these years.

But they overplayed their hand as the Mets fumed, took the bait and rose up, scoring run after run, knocking the ball through Bill Buckner’s legs and upsetting the big Red applecart with the most improbable, incredible comeback of all time.

So here we went again. Half the crowd began “AAAAAAA-Rooddd,” “AAAAAAA-Roodddd,” while the other half intoned “Steeeerrrr-Oids,” ”Steeeerrrr-Oids ...” — you get the idea. It got louder and louder and meaner and nastier.

The Yankees, by this point, were totally dispirited and had lost the fight. Until Now. As the deafening roar of the crowd rose, A-Rod smoldered. You could see the smoke coming out of his ears.

The crowd was literally raving and to me sounded mean, hurtful and not what a Red Sox crowd usually is — all about appreciating baseball excellence. They were in a lynching mood and sounded really ugly. I wanted to shout “Stop” at the top of my lungs, but it was too late.

The fearful roar of the crowd surged as A-Rod swung with a vengeance for all time. The roar became a gurgle as the screams were choked in the throats of their beholders. The ball rose and immediately vanished in a canon shot. It was still rising as it cleared the Canadian border. Fenway had gone completely silent.

A-Rod surged around the basses, pumping his fist in the air, his mouth formed the other “A-word, (bleep) as clear as day (fitting A-Rod would use the A-word). But it seemed not directed at any opposing player, but squarely at the crowd.

The Yankees, smelling Jihad, then went on to bat around the order around and win the game 9-6. They were incredibly pumped and all their players rallied around their new hero, A-Rod. The papers were all full of the new resolve for the Yankees and their season being revitalized.

Did the crowd cause the comeback, motivating the dreaded foes into retribution? Did the crowd overplay its hand? Were we doomed to repeat history?

In my mind, there was no doubt. When Sox crowds turn into New York crowds, beware, folks. We sunk to their level — to an A-Rod level — and when we do, it will always cost us.

Leave the “Who’s Your Daaaaadddddy!?” sentiments to them. Look where that got them in 2004.

We’re better than that. We won as underdogs, not gloaters. We’re Boston. Don’t stop to kick ‘em when they’re down. Keep our eyes on the prize.

Gordon Baird is a local actor and musician, co-founder of Musician magazine, and producer of “the Chicken Shack” community access television show.