July 1995 - Sit Down, Shut Up, and Watch The Game

Once upon a time, baseball fans came to Fenway Park to watch a ball game. Boston's credo was "the game's the thing." We considered ourselves a bastion of traditionalism and respect for not only the glorious game, but also for the amazing skills and talents of those who plied their trade between the white lines. The Fenway Faithful didn't need mindless dot races on the scoreboard, nor a moronic mascot to make up for a lack of enjoyment and bliss from spending a day at the old yard. No, we were untainted and pure -- pure baseball. Ah, for the good old days.

Often referred to as the thinking-persons' game, it is said that "baseball is only boring to boring minds." In this age of gnat-like attention spans and instant gratification, spurred by cultural icons like MTV and Nintendo, that sentiment appears to be a bit anachronistic. With the exception of the occasional ball hit into the seats, a baseball game is not intended to be an interactive experience. It's a simple formula: They play, we watch. Apparently, many boring minds are finding their way to 4 Yawkey Way, because that equation is not good enough for a significant portion of Fenway's customers these days. Paying a fair hunk o' dough to sit in arguably the finest Big League facility -- something plenty of people around the world would give their eyeteeth for -- does not seem to provide enough stimulation and excitement in its own right. Maybe watching and thinking is simply beyond the capabilities of many patrons. They insist on being part of the performance, not content to appreciate the beauty that is baseball.

The most insidious manifestation of this phenomenon is the wave. The wave has absolutely nothing to do with a baseball game. It's little wonder that the uprising usually starts in the bleachers, where distance from the field makes concentration on the game difficult at best. Throw in few beers and some sun, and suddenly audience participation develops an irresistible appeal. Frequently initiated at the most inopportune and crucial moments of the game, those partaking in this appendage flailing often not only miss significant on-field drama, they block the rest of us from seeing it as well.

The wave was late coming to Fenway. While lowlifes in stadia nationwide were waving away, it didn't happen in these hallowed grounds. Now we can't seem to get through a game without the dreaded deed. When is this stupid fad going to run its course? After 15 years or so, I've seen enough waving to last a lifetime. It amazes me that so many people are still so amused by something so simple-minded. Trust me -- it's no coincidence that the man who claims he started the wave movement back in the '70s was known as Krazy George.

The inbred cousin of the wave is the beach ball. It boggles my mind how children and adults alike will go to extraordinary ends simply for the opportunity to slap a beach ball bouncing around in the crowd. How they could be so rapt by such a mundane pursuit, over watching the finest professional ballplayers perform their magic is something that escapes this fan. More often than not, the ball ends up on the field, necessitating a stoppage in play. Multiply those 15 seconds by 30,000 folks in the stands, and that "harmless" beach ball just wasted 125 person-hours. Factor in a TV audience of a couple of million, and over 8,450 hours are trashed.

Boston has long been respected as having some of the most sophisticated fans in baseball. Why then must those of us who claim membership in that group suffer the yahoos? If you want to play with a beach ball, go to the beach. If you want to stand up, put your arms over your head and yell, please do it elsewhere. What we need is more people keeping score, and fewer people detracting from a near-religious experience. Let those of us who pride themselves as devotees enjoy and appreciate what we came to the ballpark for: The Game.

©1995 - 2007 Douglas T. Dinsmoor


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