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Friday, November 16, 2007

Erev World Series (written 10/27/07)

Batten down the hatches and crank up the espresso machines, because the World Series has come back to Boston! With it comes a week or two of night games that start at 8:30 and end tomorrow. Actually, we’ve already been through one week of that while we were busy eliminating Cleveland, and now it’s for the whole enchilada. So what about Boston’s energy level? Is Red Sox Nation up to the task?

It’s hard to say, since we haven’t yet installed RNGs throughout New England to monitor our regional energy pulse, but I can offer a few subjective observations. Probably a lot of this is skewed by my own personal biases, but my sense is that the intensity isn’t the same this year as in 2004. It’s more enjoyable, less life-and-death now. Here are some isolated incidents that lead me to think that way:

1. On all-sports talk radio today - the day before the Series begins - more callers were asking about the Patriots than the Sox. Admittedly, at 7-0 the Pats are a marquee team, but this is Erev World Series (“erev” is Hebrew for “the night before”, usually a Jewish holiday).

2. At work, people already seem tired out from the Cleveland series, and none of those games went beyond 12:15am. Remember in 2004, we had three consecutive Yankee games ending after 1am, creating a nation of zombies. There no such extreme altered state this year.

3. Ticket prices are practically affordable this time – for $75 bleacher seats ordered online, this year’s price was $850, compared to $1200 in ‘04. Does this 30% price reduction translate to a 30% drop in fan energy? Maybe price-monitoring is a new way to quantify the intangibles.

4. One colleague actually turned down the chance to accompany her friend to WS Game #1; true, her mobility issues made access to those particular seats a challenge, but I don’t think all those stairs would have seemed quite as daunting in 2004.

5. The hype is getting to be too much. There’s Red Sox themed stuff everywhere, and this officially encouraged fan support seems more forced than spontaneous. The latest spin is an on-line pseudo-election for the mythical office of the President of Red Sox Nation – over 1000 candidates ran, and the winning tally was 39,000 votes. Jerry Remy, the Sox TV commentator, won in a landslide.

6. And the product-placement promos are everywhere. A local furniture store has been getting tons of free publicity for its daring April gambit of making all sales in that traditionally slow month free if the Sox went on to in the Series. Lots of excited couch potatoes this week, hoping their couches magically become freebies.

Energetically, RSN had its ups and downs during the seven game Cleveland series, with a few highlights. There were the must-win performances by Schilling and Matsuzaka to prevent elimination when we were down 3-1 (our team seems to perform best with its back to the proverbial wall). We also had the long awaited key hit by team white elephant JD Drew ($70 million for 5 years, with his first game winning hit saved for Game 6 – a dramatic grand slam homerun that almost, but not quite, made us forget the rest of his miserable season). And finally came the emergence of quicksilver rookie Jacoby Ellsbury as a desperation replacement for slumping Coco Crisp – all contributed to the recent improvement in the team’s energy. The chemistry had been pretty stagnant during September, as they barely hung on in the final days of the regular season to win a playoff spot over the surging Yankees.

But still, the team’s heart and soul is David Ortiz, the stopper is Josh Beckett and the scrappy infielders are more than pulling their weight (Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis). The underdog flavor is missing this year, now that we’re widely respected and feared). And our payroll is in Yankees’ territory now. All of this negates our former All-American, boy next door charm. Newspaper articles are even popping up about how obnoxious and entitled Sox fans can be when they show up (and they do, in droves) at other stadiums.

For sure, there have been some newly emergent signs of strong team chemistry, events which enhance the likeability factor of this team (that’s the element that I think allows fan energy to really link in) – one recent playoff game featured the Sox Bullpen percussion band, with four or five pitchers rattling away on the metal overhang and railings with an assortment of sticks, water bottles and tin pans. Another was Jonathan Papelbon’s now famous celebration dance after each series is clinched – a cross between Irish step dancing and Elaine Benis’ epileptic dance routine from Seinfeld (it’s actually clog dancing from his homestate of Mississippi). These two examples really stood out for me, because this team has generally lacked the sort of flavorful personalities that made 2004 so special.

So tonite’s the night when we find out whose Mo’ is Bigger. We’re fresh from winning an exciting 7 game playoff, but with a nice 2 day breather thrown in; the Rockies are winners of an amazing 21 of their last 22 games, but might be dulled by a long 8 day layoff. My money is on the Sox, to win it all in 5 games.


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The Joy of Sox: Weird Science and the Power of Intention is produced by 2 Cousins Productions and Pinch Hit Productions. © 2006 The Joy of Sox Movie LLC. For more information, contact info@thejoyofsoxmovie.com.

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