Evolution of a Red Sox Fan: Stages 1 and 2

Below is another article in a series of blog entries I’ve written as a candidate for president of Red Sox Nation. This article originally appeared on my other blog at Crawdaddy Cove.

 

I’m a different Red Sox fan now than I was as a kid, and before I had kids, and before 2004. Is it possible that all Red Sox fans go through an evolutionary process? I’ll go on the record asserting that there are four distinct stages
in the evolution of a serious Red Sox fan (at least, there have been
four for me). No stage is necessarily better or higher than another
(indeed, I’m striving to return to stage 1), and all fans at all stages
are equal in their Red Sox Nation citizenship. Here’s how I’d define
the first two stages.

Stage 1. Discovery, Innocence, Optimism 

This
is the stage in a Red Sox fan’s life when he/she is awakened to the
existence of the Red Sox and Fenway Park, and when everything about the
team is joyful and thrilling. (Stage 1 fans could be six year-old
children, or college students from outside New England, for example.)
People in this stage have feelings for the team that resemble an very
intense crush. They have a favorite Sox player whom they idolize,
treasure the Sox posters in the Sunday Globe, and cannot conceive of a scenario where the Sox fail to win the World Series this year (they are overflowing with hope.)

For me, this stage began in
about 1976 when I was in second grade and it continued through high
school and the 1985 season. I kept a few journals for school during
these years, and half of my entries focused on the Red Sox and the
Sox-Yankees rivalry. All entries were cheerful. The journal entry I
wrote the day after Bucky Dent’s homer in ’78 (I was ten) hints at more
melodrama than pain. My eight year-old son is in stage 1 now, and I
pray for him that it lasts as many years as possible. These are the
wonderful years of baseball innocence.

Stage 2. Identity, Obsession, Vulnerability

This is the stage of the "die-hard" fan. These fans have several
emotional Red Sox memories (or scars), and their excitement about the
Red Sox has blossomed into a full-fledged addiction. They cannot miss a
game. Or even an inning of a game. People in this stage throw their
souls at the mercy of the Red Sox’ fortunes. They experience
unparalleled euphoria when things are going well, but are vulnerable to
deep depression when the team disappoints. Every win or loss is taken
personally and somehow reflects their own self-value. Some fans choose
to never leave this stage, and we admire them for that.

For me, stage 2 began when I
went to college in New Hampshire and was surrounded by people from all
over the world, but mostly from New York and New Jersey. The Red Sox
served as the core of my identity. I felt like a full-fledged member of
the team. I would travel very, very long distances, stand in long lines
(even overnight), pay money I didn’t have, and change any long-standing
plans (such as participating in a relative’s wedding) to watch them
play in person. Like I say in my song, it’s a kind of insanity. (Most fans in stages 3 and 4 re-enter stage 2 when the Sox play the Yankees, or are in the playoffs and World Series.)

Coming soon, the definitions of Red Sox Nation citizens in stages 3 and 4 of their fan evolution.

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