Saturday, April 30, 2005

Guest column: Welcome to the jungle



This column comes via the overworked keyboard of my pal and former co-worker Steve, a freelance writer based in the Maine hinterlands. As he explains in this piece, he's all for the Red Sox's exploding popularity, though, like me, he'd just as soon dangle goofy no-talent "Fever Pitch" star/faux Sox fan Jimmy Fallon from the Coke bottles and give him the pinata treatment. That's Fallon in the photo above, with, I believe, co-star Drew Barrymore. Man, she has really let herself go. Anyway, enjoy Missile's column, and if you want to drop him a note, you can reach him at stephen_mistler@yahoo.com or arod-is-a%#%&%#-fraud.com. Either should work fine. - CF


By Steve Mistler

The word is out: The Red Sox are hip. A star-crossed franchise no more, the Sox have ascended to pop culture's peak. The center fielder/author's home is featured in all its tacky glory on MTV's "Cribs." The first baseman and the ace pitcher say everything but "no comment." And we won't even get into the "Queer Eye" thing.

While you're at it, Cowboys and Idiots, say hello to Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon - and please, be sure to tell Drew and that Pencil-Necked Poser to stay off the field next time, will ya?

If only Barrymore and Fallon’s staged scene after the final out of the 2004 World Series was the most annoying post-championship development for Red Sox fans. It's not. Now we have all these new fans, these outsiders, these . . . frontrunners.

You bet I'm being sarcastic. I mean, can you believe it. This is what some of the so-called diehard fans are howling about these days - that the Red Sox actually have more fans. Ridiculous.

You know the type to complain about such things as trivial as an expanding fan-base. They're the same nitwits who are always babbling about curses and some birthright to misery. They jumped ship after that awful Yankees series last June. They belittled the best manager in Sox history, calling him Terry “Francoma”. They bailed on Games 4, 5, and 6 of the 2004 ALCS, and carried enough darkness into Game 7 to rival a black hole.

This lonesome, loathesome group has been searching for misery ever since the bottomless reservoir of self-pity went dry last October. Tito’s got immunity now, at least for one more season. The “Wait ‘Till Next Year” cry that followed a three-game losing streak in April is obsolete. So is that fable they called The Curse.

So now what, jackals?

Enter the wide-eyed immigrants to Red Sox Nation, a hopeful bunch who caught the fever during last year’s playoffs and are sticking around to see what happens next. The sad-sack elitists have their new targets. The newcomers have been scorned, their enthusiasm doused by sad tales of entitlement, their shiny new New Era caps soiled by filthy mockery.

Whatever.

To the new Red Sox fans I say welcome. If a $23 bleacher seat doesn’t insult your sensibilities, go ahead and check out the old ballpark. Cultivate a disdain for all things Yankee. Applaud Mr. October (we call him “Papi”). Roundly boo A-Rod (we call him “A-Fraud”). Oh, and ignore the arrogant and entitled among us.

In fact, I’ll make this offer to any team you used to root for: "Give us your tired, your poor, your optimistic . . . we’ll give you our self-loathing masochists – straight up."

Of course, while we encourage new fans, we’d like to suggest a few guidelines. Nothing serious, just some helpful hints for those who plan on sticking around for, oh, the next 86 years.

- First, let’s divide into groups. Those who love Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon, please stand up. Good. Now, fans age 21 and older, please return to your seats and prepare for next week’s lecture, “Closing out a Best-of-Seven Series with a 3-0 Lead.” Review tapes of 2004 ALCS, Games 4 through 7. Discuss.

The rest of you remain standing.

And stop screeching.

Please.

Listen, we all love our resident rock star in center field, especially for his contributions during the last half of the 2004 playoffs. But let’s take the matinee-idol thing down a decibel or 10. The teenyboppers at Fenway, whose high-pitched squeals threaten to gather all the Atlantic’s bottle-nosed dolphins to the Back Bay, are beginning to sound like the infamous Jeterettes at Yankee Stadium. Besides, it’s doubtful the Sox will offer Johnny Be Bad the six-year contract he so covets. He may be the enemy soon.

- Speaking of Derek Jeter, Red Sox fans new and old are encouraged to mock his patented fist-pump and lack of range. But now that we’ve seen what makes a champion, there’s no shame in acknowledging that Captain Jetes remains one, even if his team does not.

- Scouting report on A-Fraud: Likes to align himself with Jeter, but outside of the boy-band looks, the two have little in common . . . can’t hit in clutch . . . obsessive sculpting of public image has revealed unbridled narcissism . . . favors purple lip-gloss.

-Dave Roberts, Derek Lowe, Pokey Reese, and all former 2004 Red Sox are to receive heartfelt ovations on all future visits. There is one exception: Pedro Martinez. Please greet the best pitcher in Red Sox history with a stunning chorus of . . . silence. Love-Me-or-Hate-Me Pedro will have no idea what to make of the indifference.



- We’re big Curt Schilling fans around here. However, when the Big Schill speaks, as he does way too often on way too many subjects, you’re not obligated to listen.

- Unless you want to pledge the fraternity of the Angry and Ignorant, WEEI’s “The Big Show” is not suitable for your virgin ears.

- Trying to learn more about the Sox? Choose your sources wisely. The Boston Globe is a sound pick. (The boss did not make me put that in.) A lot of other media outlets cover the team – too many – but some are motivated to get information first, rather than right. The others just don’t get it.

- I didn’t want that last bit of advice to segue to this one, but unfortunately, it seems all too natural. NESN’s Jerry Remy is the best baseball analyst in the country. I just wish his broadcast partner, the bland but likable Don Orsillo, knew half as much.

- Their status as icons makes this taboo, but I just can’t take it anymore. Jerry Trupiano and Joe Castiglione, WEEI’s radio broadcast team, assault the ears. Most baseball games are steady rhythms with occasional crescendos. Jerry and Joe call Sox games like a three-hour guitar solo at a speed-metal concert. Listen at your own peril.

That about covers it, greenhorns. Enjoy your stay, however long that may be. One last thing to remember. That pessimistic, self-flogging, irrational identity so often assigned to Red Sox fans is passé.

If that’s your bag, Yankee Stadium is five hours south.

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