For the past ten years, Fenway Opening Day has been my Christmas. It’s a holiday. It’s a holy day. It’s a day no work is done. Because we don’t want to fill our minds with such frivoloties as marketing plans, focus groups and direct mail campaigns. Not when there’s a blue sky, green grass, lemon yellow sun and ice cold beer lined up in clear plastic cups. Not when the crowds are milling about at 9:00am, gripping their pennants and scorecards and fully-posable Daryl Irvine action figures, and the smell of weiners and sausage and fried food hangs like a cloud from West Roxbury to Revere Beach. Not when we’ve endured shot after shot of the infield and grandstands covered in snow, a curious device employed by the local media year after year, as if to torment us into thinking that today will never come.
There was a time when I made the scene in person. Like when Manny swatted that three run dinger in his first at bat for the hometown crowd. Or when Mo Vaughn crushed a gopher ball from Heathcliff Slocumb [fancy that!] into the right field seats, punctuating a riotous ninth inning comeback. Or when Jose Offerman went 3-for-3, prompting me to pose the musical question, “Mo who?” We got there early and we stayed until the bitter end and we screamed until our tonsils said “f–k this” and simply snapped themselves off and strolled away. And we never paid to park… just ask my dad, who endured my endless rounds down Huntington, up Brookline, and across the secret Boston Latin School sidestreet, forever in search of that elusive Fenway Opening Day freebie.
About four years ago, tickets got harder to come by. But it was still an event. We moved the TV into the “big room.” We set up the chairs to look like rows of cheap seats. We splashed beer on the walls and smashed cigarettes on the carpet and tossed the celebratory Pedro Martinez beanie baby around like some sacred totem ["Don't f--king touch it! You'll jinx us all!"]. And we consumed more meat than most third world denizens will choke down in a lifetime. And we watched the postgame. And we talked about it and analyzed it from every angle and wondered if Tony Clark’s homerun was a fluke, or the shape of things to come. And we dreamed big. Because that’s what you do on Fenway Opening Day [capitalized, naturally, because it needs to be].
Today, sadly, marks the end of an era. My job beckons, and I must answer its clarion call. I’ll be in a sterile office building when Josh Beckett takes the hill this afternoon, seated at a desk surprisingly void of beer stains. But I’ll have Joe and Jerry with me. And while my eyes may gaze blankly at the spreadsheet on the screen before me, my heart and mind will be on Yawkey Way. Section 16. Row 7.
My name’s Red. And I hope you enjoy today’s game.