Living in the nation
These days I live in the nation, but it hasn’t always been so.
Growing up, my father instilled in me a reverence for the things he loved most: John Wayne, pro wrestling, bow hunting, and Detroit baseball. If we weren’t watching Full House or WrestleMania (exclusively for Hulk Hogan) on a lazy summer afternoon we were watching the Tigers.
Throughout my life baseball has been a comfort to me. The dusty cleats on the infield. The perfect white lines. The green, green grass. The pop of a bat on a home run. The stolen bases. The mustaches. The blue, white, and orange. I love it all.
Last August I moved to the east coast and this spring I experienced my first opening day living in Red Sox nation. On April 8th, the Sox played (and bested) the Yankees at Fenway. That morning a tide of red and white and blue swept through the city. On my morning train I observed a woman done up in devotion with Red Sox shoelaces, jacket, visor, earrings, purse. The fact that she had stopped short of adorning herself in an official uniform was what was truly surprising.
Though I never check the schedule, I always know when the lights will be on at Fenway. On every street downtown a shuffling sea of caps, shirts, and jerseys clogs the bricks of Copley Square from T stop to my destination, where ever it may be.
These people are my friends and coworkers. These people are the people I depend on. They cook the meals, they haul the trash, they connect the calls, they drive they ambulances. They guard me while I sleep. You do not fuck with them.
It’s an interesting experience, to move from one big sports city to another. To suddenly find yourself watching the Bruins at the bar because the Wings aren’t on. To wake up one day and realize you root for the Celtics, and begin fostering an unrequited love of Glen Davis. To be constantly surrounded by a slew of base-hit reports credited to names you don’t recognize.
Living here is like being in a foreign country — no one speaks my language and the scores from home get lost in the post.
That Boston is a sports town is some small comfort to me. And their Sox reverence is something it’s hard not to be a bit humbled by. Love or hate the Sox, living in Boston I can’t escape them. Because Fenway Park falls somewhere between my job downtown and my apartment off the green line, evening games mean I can’t get a train home for the better part of an hour.
I watch train after train of excited, B-emblazoned fans roll through Copley station, biding my time, praying for a car with space enough open for a person of my stature. Never in my life have I seen so many single-letter tattoos. I would guess that about 70% of Boston natives over the age of 18 have a Sox tattoo.
In all the time I’ve lived in Boston, nearly a year now, I’ve seen exactly four Detroit Tigers hats. FOUR. One night while waiting for the train I noticed the woman next to me in the most beautiful adjustible navy blue baseball hat, with that pristine white old english D that weakens my knees. In Boston there’s an unspoken rule, fostered by the general rush and meanness of city life that you don’t ask strangers questions that aren’t game scores or directions. But. I. Just. Couldn’t. Help Myself.
I asked this woman if she was from Detroit and all I got in return was a blank stare. “Your hat,” I said.
“No,” she said, “I have some friends there, and I believe people should be able to wear whatever they want.”
“I only ask because I’m from there — I’m a huge Tigers fan.”
She turned away.
And so it goes. I am a stranger in a strange land. Won’t someone please send me the score?